The Falkland Islands


Las Islas Malvinas




The ownership of the Falklands Islands is subject to war and conflict, as these two images suggest - on the left, the flag in the Falklands and on the right, graffiti on a street in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

This sovereignty dispute stems from the Falklands' colonisation by Europeans. At various times, the islands have had French, British, Spanish, and Argentine settlements. Britain re-established its rule in 1833, though the islands continue to be claimed by Argentina. After WWII and the establishment of the United Nations, there was pressure to end the dispute. Britain considered giving the islands to Argentina, but the Falkland residents found out and protested. Talks stalled. In 1982, following Argentina's invasion of the islands, British PM Margaret Thatcher countered with full force; 255 British and 649 Argentine soldiers, sailors and airmen died, as did 3 civilian Falklanders. The two-month-long undeclared Falklands War resulted in the surrender of all Argentine forces; the islands remained a British Overseas Territory. There are still huge swaths of territory fenced off because of land mines, which they are clearing sporadically. The predominant and official language is English, and since 1983 the Falkland Islanders are legally British citizens.

Argentina recognises only the UK government as a legitimate partner in negotiations and considers the islands, along with South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands, as part of its Tierra del Fuego province. Currently, Argentina wants to resume talks with Britain, but rejects British insistence that Falkland Island residents be involved.

Several days after we left the islands, its residents held a referendum as to whether they wished to remain British. The overwhelming vote (only 3 demurred) was to remain under British rule. Oil has recently been discovered offshore, and sentiment among islanders tends toward freedom from any foreign dependency.