Wednesday, 19 February, 2020

Bangladesh bans mobile phone access in Rohingya camps, shocking refugees

Bangladesh bans mobile phone access in Rohingya camps, shocking refugees Bangladesh bans mobile phone access in Rohingya camps, shocking refugees
Cecil Davis | 06 September, 2019, 03:30

The directive was issued after Posts and Telecommunications Minister Mustafa Jabbar asked Bangladesh Telecommunication and Regulatory Commission (BTRC) to take immediate steps to stop mobile phone services at Rohingya camps in Cox's Bazar.

DHAKA-Bangladesh's telecommunications regulatory body has asked operators to shut down cellphone services in sprawling camps in the southeast where hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from Myanmar live, citing a security threat and illegal phone use, an official said Tuesday.

"You are requested to ensure that the Rohingya community is not provided with mobile phone services", the official quoted the government directive as saying.

Back in August 2017, about 700,000 Rohingya had fled into Bangladesh from Myanmar's Rakhine state, following a military crackdown in response to the militant attack.

Haque said Rohingya refugees usually would contact their relatives left behind in Rakhine using mobile phones taking advantage of Bangladeshi cell towers along the border. Many Rohingya, he mentioned, depend on remittances despatched by way of their diaspora and typically obtain telephone calls informing them of the cash transfers.

Government had proposed to set up phone booths in the Rohingya camps to meet their communication requirements. He further stated that this communications blackout will have a positive impact and will help reduce criminal activities in the country.

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This, he said, was flouting an existing law that required a subscriber to submit a copy of his or her national identity card or passport before getting a sim card.

Rohingya refugees have said the recent bloodshed has created an atmosphere of fear in the camp, where security has been tightened.

Tensions are running high in the camps after a youth wing leader from Bangladesh's ruling Awami League party was killed last week, allegedly by Rohingya refugees, and at least four Rohingya were shot dead by police. Rights groups have previously accused Bangladesh police of extrajudicial killings.

"Seeking to limit their communication amongst themselves, with Bangladeshis and people overseas, will serve to push them towards negative coping habits be it crime, violence or extremism", he added.

The government's move surprised and dismayed many refugee leaders. "I hope the government will reconsider".

AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk.