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Americas

Falkland Islanders vote on British status

© AFP

Video by FRANCE 24

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2013-03-10

Residents of the Falkland Islands hold a referendum on Sunday and Monday to demonstrate how and by whom they want to be governed. Argentina, which claims sovereignty over the islands, has declared the vote “illegal”.

Residents of the Falkland Islands – whose sovereignty is claimed by Argentina - vote Sunday and Monday in a referendum asking if they want the archipelago to retain its status as a self-governing British overseas territory.

Argentina, which staged an ill-fated invasion in 1982, has branded the referendum "illegal", claiming that the islanders are "implanted" and therefore do not have the right to self-determination.

The vote has been instigated by the residents – of whom 1,672 are eligible to vote - in what they hope will send a clear message to Buenos Aires and the rest of the world that they want the Falklands to stay British.

"The result will demonstrate in a clear, democratic and incontestable way how the people of the Falkland Islands wish to live their lives," the Falklands' government said in a statement.

The referendum question reads: "Do you wish the Falkland Islands to retain their current political status as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom?"

The vote comes amid increasingly forceful rhetoric from Argentine President Cristina Kirchner who claims that the Islands, known in Spanish as Las Malvinas, are illegally occupied by the United Kingdom.

The Falklands have been British since 1833, but Argentina says they were part of the Spanish Empire before then and rightly belong to Argentina.

"We are reasonable people; we are open to dialogue on a number of things," Dick Sawle, one of the islands' eight elected legislative assembly members, told AFP.

"What we are not going to talk about is sovereignty because the people don't want to -- and it's as simple as that."

In terms of the message he hopes the referendum would send, he added: "There are many countries where many politicians don't hear our side of the story. I would hope it would change hearts and minds."

Relations between Buenos Aires and London, which refuses to discuss the islands’ sovereignty have polarised since extensive oil and gas exploration began in 2010.

Date created : 2013-03-09

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