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The BIOT-british Indian Ocean Territory Collections Exhibition
The British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) or Chagos Islands is an overseas territory of the United Kingdom situated in the Indian Ocean, halfway between Africa and Indonesia. The territory comprises the six atolls of the Chagos Archipelago (Phehandweep फेहंद्वीप in Hindi and other North Indian languages, Paeikaana Theevukal பேகான தீவுகள் in Tamil, Feyhandheebu ފޭހަންދީބު in Dhivehi) with over 1,000 individual islands (many tiny) having a total land area of 60 square kilometres (23 sq mi).
The largest island is Diego Garcia (area 44 km2), the site of a joint military facility of the United Kingdom and the United States. Following the eviction of the native population in the 1960s, the only inhabitants are US and British military personnel and associated contractors, who collectively number around 4,000 (2004 figures).
2 Politics and law
4 Geography and communications
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Maldivian mariners knew the Chagos Islands well. In Maldivian lore they are known as Fōlhavahi or Hollhavai (the latter name in the closer Southern Maldives). According to Southern Maldivian oral tradition, traders and fishermen were occasionally lost at sea and got stranded in one of the islands of the Chagos. Eventually they were rescued and brought back home. However, these islands were judged to be too far away from the Maldives to be settled permanently by them. Thus for many centuries the Chagos were ignored by their northern neighbours.
The islands of Chagos Archipelago were charted by Vasco da Gama in the early sixteenth century, then claimed in the eighteenth century by France as a possession of Mauritius. They were first settled in the 18th century, by African slaves and Indian labourers brought by Franco-Mauritians to found coconut plantations. In 1810, Mauritius was captured by the United Kingdom, and France ceded the territory in the Treaty of Paris.
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