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British Overseas Territories

Falkland Islands

The Falklands Islands are a British Overseas Territory. The Falkland Islands are a small group of islands in the South Atlantic Ocean, approximately 300 miles east of the Argentinian coast. Britain took possession of the Falkland Islands in 1833 and installed a Lieutenant Governor (later Governor) in 1842. The Falklands were an important military base for the British during the First World War.

The Falkland Islands derive their name from Falkland Sound, the name given to the waterway between the two main islands by Captain John Strong, who, in his ship Welfare, spent several days in the Islands in 1690. Falkland Sound was itself named after Viscount Falkland, one of the owners of Welfare. The Falkland Islands are an archipelago consisting of two main Islands (East and West Falkland) and 778 smaller islands, with a total land area of approximately 4,700 sq. m. (12,173 sq. km), roughly the size of Connecticut in the USA or just over half the size of Wales in the UK.

The Capital, Stanley, is home to over three quarters of the population. Everything outside of Stanley is known locally as “Camp”, and is home to numerous farms and settlements spread across the archipelago. The community of over 2,500 people is diverse; with people from over 60 nations, the Islands are a truly cosmopolitan society. The heart of the community lies in the families who can trace their heritage back through 9 generations in the Islands, who have subsequently been joined over the course of nearly 200 years by those who have chosen to make the Falkland Islands their home. Predominantly of British descent, the Islands population also includes large Chilean and St Helenian communities.

The Governor of the Falklands provides formal British diplomatic representation on the Islands and the local authorities deal with requests for consular assistance in conjunction with the Governor’s office. Most visits to the Falkland Islands are trouble-free and there is little crime or disorder.

In 1982, Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands, the remote British colony in the South Atlantic that Buenos Aires claimed it owned. The armed conflict between the two nations took the lives of 655 Argentinian and 255 British servicemen. The 74-day Falklands war ended when Argentina gave up their bid to control the islands.

In 2013, Britain held a referendum in the Falklands which showed up to 99 percent of voters agreed that the islands should remain a UK overseas territory. Argentina rejected the referendum, claiming it was illegitimate.

It is government policy to safeguard UK sovereignty of the Falkland Islands and the Falkland Islanders’ right to self-determination, and the MOD plays a central role in this. The Department retains responsibility for the external defence and security of the Falkland Islands and its surrounding maritime area, which, alongside South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and Ascension, are overseen by the Commander British Forces (South Atlantic Islands).

The MOD provides a permanent military presence of around 1300 personnel in the South Atlantic, supported by around 50 MOD civilians and 700 contractors, in order to meet its obligations. The Falkland Islands patrol vessel is permanently based in the Falklands, from where she also patrols the waters of South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, and of the British Antarctic Territory. This naval presence is complemented by a Royal Navy Frigate or Destroyer, supported by a Royal Fleet Auxiliary tanker, together conducting Atlantic Patrol Task (South).

The Falkland Islands Roulement Infantry Company (RIC) is a rotational Army infantry unit, and is based at Mount Pleasant. It also deploys to South Georgia and Ascension Island to provide a visible security presence and statement of UK sovereignty. Similarly based in the Falkland Islands are RAF Typhoon, VC-10 and Hercules aircraft, together with support helicopters. Separately, the Falklands Islands Defence Force (FIDF) operates as the local reservist infantry unit.

The National Security Strategy confirms the UK’s commitment to a continuing ice-patrol capability. During the Austral Summer, the RN Ice Patrol Ship, HMS Protector, provides scientific, hydrographical and humanitarian support to the British Antarctic Survey and other permanent scientific research stations. The ship will also visit the other South Atlantic Islands during her deployments.

Looking ahead, the Ministry of Defence will continue to examine the most appropriate and effective way to deliver security and protection to the population, including working closely with the Falkland Islands Government towards a shared vision for greater economic opportunities.

UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon said 24 March 2015 that Britain was going to boost its military defenses and set aside £180 million ($268 million) for a 10-year program to bolster the Falkland Islands’ defenses amid invasion fears from Argentina. "There will be little change to force posture overall, but we are looking forward to welcoming the return of Chinooks which were removed in 2006 to support operations in Afghanistan," Elsby said.

Fallon had confirmed that the two Chinooks will be operational by the middle of 2016. He added that the dispute concerning the islands remains a "very live threat," coming from Argentina, which continues to claim the Falklands as its own.

British companies Premier Oil Plc and Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd found oil and gas at a well off the disputed Falkland Islands. The discovery could aggravate further tensions between Buenos Aires and London over the sovereignty of the archipelago. The two British companies, Premier Oil Plc and Falkland Oil and Gas Ltd, announced 02 Apri 2015 they discovered 24.6 meters of net-oil bearing reservoir and 16.7 meters of net-gas bearing reservoir at the Zebedee well in the Falkland Islands, after a nine-month drilling campaign. The Zebedee well will be now plugged, while the British companies continue exploration at the Isobel fan complex in the North Falkland Basin.

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Page last modified: 22-07-2017 18:15:11 ZULU