The Outer Islands

The total land area of the Republic of Mauritius  is 2040 square kilometres including some 49 tiny uninhabited islands and islets scattered around the main island. This area excludes the Chagos Archipelago which has been distracted  from the territory of Mauritius by Great Britain prior to the decolonisation process.

The Republic consists of  several smaller islands  of which the island of Rodrigues situated some 560 kilometres to the east. The area  of Rodrigues is 104 km2 in area and used to be the tenth district of Mauritius before it became autonomous in 2002.

The twin islands of Agalega are situated some 1,000 km to the north of Mauritius with a total land area of 2,600 hectares is also an integral part of the Mauritius territory.

Saint Brandon, an archipelago comprising a number of sand-banks, shoals and islets situated some 430 kilometres or 268 nautical miles to the north-east of Mauritius is also part of the territory of Mauritius. It is also known as Cargados Carajos Shoals consisting of a group of over 50 islands, coral ridges and vast sand flats on an extended reef in the Indian Ocean.

Mauritius exclusive economic zone (EEZ)

Our nation's exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is about 1.596 million square kilometres in the Indian Ocean

Four fishing banks fall within our EEZ limits, the Soudan Banks (including East Soudan Bank), Nazareth Bank, Saya de Malha Bank, Hawkins Bank.

In 2011, the United Nations endorsed the joint submission of Mauritius and Seychelles to extend their continental shelf of 396,000 square kilometres in the Mascarene region granting the two countries sovereign rights to jointly manage and exploit the seabed and subsoil of the joint area.

The Chagos Archipelago

The Chagos Archipalego is situated within coordinates: 6°00?S and 71°30?E,  and has an area of approximately 56 square kilometres. It consists of the main islands of Diego Gracia, Peros Banhos, Salomon Islands and the Egmont Islands as well as a few fishing banks.

The Chagos Archipelago formerly known as Bassas de Chagas and later also named Oil Islands, known as Foalhavahi in Dhivehi, Phehandweep in Hindi and other North Indian languages, and as Paeikaana Theevukal in Tamil, is a group of seven atolls comprising more than 60 individual tropical islands in the Indian Ocean. This group of islands was named Bassas de Chagas by Portuguese seafarers. Chagas meaning wounds, referring to the Holy Wounds of the crucifixion of Jesus. They also named some of the atolls: for example Diego Garcia and Peros Banhos Atoll, which was named Pedro dos Banhos in 1513 by Alfonso de Albuquerque. The Portuguese never colonised these islands classifying them as economically and politically uninteresting.
An interesting description of the islands was written by a castaway from the ship Conceição which ran aground on the Peros Banhos reefs in 1556.
Once the French had taken possession of Mauritius and Reunion in the early eighteenth century, they pursued their exploration of the Indian Ocean and claimed the Chagos islands. On April 27, 1786, the British made an unsuccessful attempt to claim the islands.  

The Chagos have been part of Mauritius since the 18th century when the French first settled on the islands. All of the islands forming part of the French colonial territory of Isle de France (as Mauritius was then known) were ceded to the British in 1810 under the Act of Capitulation signed between the two countries and ratified by the Treaty of Paris in 1814. Chagos always was part of Mauritius, and was generally recognised as being so, until the UK purported to split it off in 1965, prior to Mauritian independence in 1968 without any respect for Intenational law and United Nations' resolutions as well as those of the Organisation of African Unity, now the African Union.  The British then leased, Diego Garcia, the main island of the archipelago, to the United States under a 50-year lease (which expires in 2016 and comes up for renewal in 2014). There are many indications that the Unites States of America do not wish to part with Diego Garcia and all the surrounding islands in a near or remote future. Mauritius will have no other alternative than to withdraw from the British Commonwealth to be in a position to bring the matter to the International Court of Justice for redress. The British case before the ICJ is indeed very thin and the British Government would certainly be forced to return the islands to the Republic of Mauritius as was the case of the Amirantes Islands (comprising  Île Desroches), in June 23, 1976, which was returned to the Seychelles at the time of its independence.

Tromelin or Ile de Sable

Tromelin or Ile de sable as it was called was discovered in 1722 by Captain J. M. Briand de la Feuillée commanding the vessel Diane. Sir Robert Farquhar published a map in 1815 which shows that Tromelin was part of the Mauritius territory as one of its dependencies. The Baron d'Unienville also included Tromlin as a depedency of Mauritius in his book " statistiques de l'Île Maurice et ses dépendances without any protest from the French government of the time. In 1877, the British War Office publish an official handbook decribing Tromelin as being a British Possession.
About 50 years later, The Harbour maste cum controller of customes published a report abou a visit at Tromelin for the sake of studying  the possibility of establishing a fishing venture. In 1934, the map published by the Survey Office of the Public Works Department includes Tromelin as a dependency of Mauritius as it is alo mentionned in the French Overseas Atlas published the same year.
Furthermore, the Colonial Secretary of Mauritius reports on August 3, 1965 that during world War II, the "Forces Françaises Libres" had used Tromelin with the consent of the British gobernment. According to Ian Walker, in his book, Complete guide to the south West Indian Ocean, published in 1993, mentions that the French Government asked permission from the British before the establishment of the weather ststion.
During the period up to 1956, the British government leased Tromelin to Mr Lebreton. Then , to Mr Britter  for about 10 years up to June 1941. The small island was then successively leased to Mm. Dumont and Lavoipierre up to june 1956 propably for the exploitation of guano to be used in the Mauritian cane fields and for fishing.

But the French government had already plans to annexe Tromelin as a French overseas territory. After attaching Tromelin to Madagascar, the French severed the island from the Madagascar authorities and placed it under the administration of the French minister  for the overseas departments and territories.

There are similarities in the way the French and the British manoeuvred to annexe Tromelin and the Chagos respectively despite the UN Resolutions condemning thedistration of territories prior to granting independence. But, if one was to consider these claims, it would be relevant to also include the frivolous claims from the Seychelles and Madagascar in the same go. There is no doubt. Tromelin is a dependency of Mauritius and has always been since 1815. The independence of Mauritius will never be complete until these small islands are returned back to the people of Mauritius.


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