Car with a union flag in Port StanleyInternational observers will oversee the vote in which Falkland Islanders will have their say on their future

The population of the Falkland Islands is going to the polls on Sunday and Monday in a referendum on whether to remain a British Overseas Territory.

Argentina has constantly reiterated its claims to sovereignty over the islands.

This is the case more than 30 years after Argentina invaded the Falklands and its troops were ousted by a British Task Force in a 74-day conflict.

Relations between Buenos Aires and the Falkland Islands are at one of their lowest ebbs since the war.

The islanders decided to hold the referendum in response to Argentine statements about the islands and economic measures taken against the Falklands.

Little doubt

Argentina has continued to insist on its sovereignty over the South Atlantic islands, and the government of Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner has said the inhabitants’ wishes do not count.

Falkland Islanders will have their voices heard in the referendum, with 1,672 people eligible to vote out of the islands’ total population of about 2,900.

While the result is in little doubt, there are worries that the bad weather could hamper the return of ballot boxes from some remoter places.

British soldiers in the Falklands WarBritish forces recaptured the Falkland Islands after invasion by Argentina

BBC defence correspondent Caroline Wyatt, in Port Stanley, said that in the cafes and shops of the Falklands capital there was no mistaking the sentiment – union flags fly everywhere from cars to bunting in the windows, and posters ask islanders to vote “yes” to staying British.

Julie Clarke, owner of the Bittersweet cafe, said: “Without a shadow of a doubt, it’ll be a big fat ‘yes’. These are our islands, this is our home, and I think the rest of the world needs to hear us and see us for who we are.”

Pam Devino, who runs a beauty salon, said: “Really, hopefully, that will get Argentina to back off, stop giving us so much hassle and it will let Britain know as well that we want to be British and part of them, and we’re thankful for their support.”

Our correspondent said the hope was that Argentina and other nations would listen to the islanders’ wishes for the future – but few on the islands believed that this Argentine government was in any mood to listen.

Mobile stations

International observers will oversee the vote.

There are mobile polling stations, some of which will have to be flown out to and from the outer islands, hence the voting being held over two days.

Those who cannot vote include those aged under 18 and people who are not Falkland islanders.

Some Argentines living on the islands have “Falklands status” which makes them eligible to vote.

A “yes” vote would back the status of the islands remaining as it is.

Argentina has long laid claim to the islands, which it calls Las Malvinas.

Argentine forces invaded the Falkland Islands on 2 April 1982, entering the capital Port Stanley early in the morning.

The garrison of Royal Marines was overwhelmed and other British South Atlantic territories including South Georgia were also seized.

In two months of fighting 255 British and about 650 Argentine servicemen were killed, along with three Falklands civilians, before Argentina surrendered.

BBCThe Falkland Islands and South Georgia and South Sandwich Islands are British Overseas Territories

Falklands referendum: Islanders vote on British status – BBC News
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