Government accused of profiting from sales of Chagos Islands '.io' domain name

 

The UK Government is profiting from the clearance of the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean, by receiving a share of the profits from the sales of archipelago’s popular internet domain name.

Dozens of companies have snapped up the “.io” suffix originally intended for internet users in the British owned chain of islands. Its inhabitants were forcibly removed between 1967 and 1973 to make way for an American air strip on Diego Garcia, now one of Washington’s most important overseas bases.

Since the islands - formally known as the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT) - have no permanent residents beyond UK and American military personnel, the domain name is offered for sale on the open market under a little-noticed deal struck in 1998.

Under the terms of the agreement with Dorset based company Internet Computer Bureau (ICB), the Government receives an undisclosed share of the £60 fee to activate each .io name.

The number of domains sold has not been disclosed, along with the amount of money paid into Treasury coffers, but the name is proving particularly popular with internet and technology start-up companies.

The “.io” designation for “Indian Ocean” is the same as the IT abbreviation for “input/output”, describing the relationship between a computer and its user, and is being snapped by software firms.

Campaigners today called on the Government to ensure the income from the domain name sales is ring-fenced for use to maintain the islands and help facilitate a potential re-settlement of Chagossians.

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office earlier this year commissioned a feasibility study on the return of islanders, many of whom are impoverished and who have fought for decades for adequate compensation as well as the right to once more live in the archipelago.

Allen Vincatassin, president of the Diego Garcia and Chagos Islands Council, said: “We do not know what sort of income is being received from the sale of these internet domains and to what use it is being put. This another example of money being behind the backs of Chagossians.

“The Government should disclose how much money it has received and provides assurances that it will be used for the islands, including the resettlement that so many Chagossians want to see happen.”

The sale of domain names has proved lucrative for a number of small countries and territories fortuitously granted in-demand suffixes. The Pacific nation of Tuvalu receives about £1.3m a year - about a tenth of its GDP - from sales of its “.tv” domain while Montenegro has sold at least 320,000 “.me” names.

Paul Kane, the founder of the ICB and a respected expert on internet infrastructure, confirmed that a share of the fee paid to use the “.io” domain was received by the Government.

Speaking to the Gigaom website, which revealed the existence of the arrangement, he said: “Each of the overseas territories has an account and the funds are deposited there because obviously the territories have expenses that they incur and it’s offsetting that.”

The BIOT costs around £2m a year to administer, including the running of a chartered fishery protection vessel to patrol the recently-established vast marine reserve surrounding the islands. It receives income from a small recreational fishery run off Diego Garcia.

Author Philippa Gregory, who is also a campaigner for the Chagos Islanders, said: "None of the Chagossians in exile from their homeland for forty years had any idea that there was a profit being made from their homeland. None of the profits from this sale come back to the community who are mostly living in hardship or poverty in Mauritius, Seychelles and in the UK.

"It is hard not to see this as a further injustice to these people who were moved from their island homeland in the Indian Ocean and are still in enforced exile."

The FCO did not respond to a request for comment on the domain name sales.

Life and Style
A teenager boy wakes up.
life
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Critics say Kipling showed loathing for India's primitive villagers in The Jungle Book
filmChristopher Walken, Bill Murray, Scarlett Johanssen Idris Elba, Andy Serkis, Benedict Cumberbatch, Cate Blanchett and Christian Bale
Life and Style
food + drink
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Playing to win: for Tanith Carey, pictured with Lily, right, and Clio, even simple games had to have an educational purpose
lifeTanith Carey explains what made her take her foot off the gas
Arts and Entertainment
A still from Duncan Campbell's hour-long film 'It for Others'
Turner Prize 2014
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Tony Hadley in a scene from ‘Soul Boys Of The Western World’
musicSpandau Ballet are back together - on stage and screen
Arts and Entertainment
From left to right: Ed Stoppard as Brian Epstein, Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black and Elliott Cowan as George Martin in 'Cilla'
tvCilla review: A poignant ending to mini-series
News
i100
Life and Style
Bearing up: Sebastian Flyte with his teddy Aloysius in Brideshead Revisited
lifePhilippa Perry explains why a third of students take a bear to uni
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Alan Sugar appearing in a shot from Apprentice which was used in a Cassette Boy mashup
artsA judge will rule if pieces are funny enough to be classed as parodies
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Trust Accountant - Kent

NEGOTIABLE: Austen Lloyd: TRUST ACCOUNTANT - KENTIf you are a Chartered Accou...

Geography Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: randstad education are curre...

Teaching Assistant

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: You must:- Speak English as a first lang...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Randstad Education Group: If you are a committed Te...

Day In a Page

Isis is an hour from Baghdad, the Iraq army has little chance against it, and air strikes won't help

Isis an hour away from Baghdad -

and with no sign of Iraq army being able to make a successful counter-attack
Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

Turner Prize 2014 is frustratingly timid

The exhibition nods to rich and potentially brilliant ideas, but steps back
Last chance to see: Half the world’s animals have disappeared over the last 40 years

Last chance to see...

The Earth’s animal wildlife population has halved in 40 years
So here's why teenagers are always grumpy - and it's not what you think

Truth behind teens' grumpiness

Early school hours mess with their biological clocks
Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?

Hacked photos: the third wave

Why can no one stop hackers putting celebrities' private photos online?
Royal Ballet star dubbed 'Charlize Theron in pointe shoes' takes on Manon

Homegrown ballerina is on the rise

Royal Ballet star Melissa Hamilton is about to tackle the role of Manon
Education, eduction, education? Our growing fascination with what really goes on in school

Education, education, education

TV documentaries filmed in classrooms are now a genre in their own right
It’s reasonable to negotiate with the likes of Isis, so why don’t we do it and save lives?

It’s perfectly reasonable to negotiate with villains like Isis

So why don’t we do it and save some lives?
This man just ran a marathon in under 2 hours 3 minutes. Is a 2-hour race in sight?

Is a sub-2-hour race now within sight?

Dennis Kimetto breaks marathon record
We shall not be moved, say Stratford's single parents fighting eviction

Inside the E15 'occupation'

We shall not be moved, say Stratford single parents
Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Air strikes alone will fail to stop Isis

Talks between all touched by the crisis in Syria and Iraq can achieve as much as the Tornadoes, says Patrick Cockburn
Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

Nadhim Zahawi: From a refugee on welfare to the heart of No 10

The Tory MP speaks for the first time about the devastating effect of his father's bankruptcy
Witches: A history of misogyny

Witches: A history of misogyny

The sexist abuse that haunts modern life is nothing new: women have been 'trolled' in art for 500 years
Shona Rhimes interview: Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Meet the most powerful woman in US television

Writer and producer of shows like Grey's Anatomy, Shonda Rhimes now has her own evening of primetime TV – but she’s taking it in her stride
'Before They Pass Away': Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Endangered communities photographed 'like Kate Moss'

Jimmy Nelson travelled the world to photograph 35 threatened tribes in an unashamedly glamorous style