Bangladesh to snap telecom connections of Rohingyas

Staff Correspondent | Published: 17:29, Sep 02,2019 | Updated: 09:48, Sep 03,2019


Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission has asked all telecom operators to snap mobile phone connectivity which were issued to the Rohingya refugees in violation of the regulatory instruction.

Aiming to ensure state security and stability, the  telecom regulator gave the instruction to the telecos on Sunday, following an instruction from the posts and telecommunications minister Mustafa Jabbar.

In September, 2017 the government instructed the telecom operators not to sell SIMs to the Rohingyas, warning them of regulatory measures if found issuing connections to the refugees.

Despite the warning and regulatory instruction, it was found that the Rohingyas were extensively using mobile phone connection, instigating the government to issue fresh instruction to the telecom operators.

On Sunday’s letter, issued to the managing directors and chief executive officers of all the telcos, the BTRC said that the commission’s Rohingya camp inspection team, law enforcement agencies and the detective branches have found extensive use of mobile phone connections by the Rohingyas.

The commission asked the operators to stop selling SIMs, snapping existing connections, besides taking adequate measures for barring mobile phone service for the refugees.

The operators were also instructed to inform the commission in seven working days on the implementation of the instructions.

‘Mobile operators are always committed to ensuring compliant practices by following the directives issued from the BTRC,’ Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh secretary general S M Farhad told New Age on Monday.

‘Operators will take appropriate measures regarding the issue,’ Farhad said and added, ‘It is also necessary to mention that SIMs can only be activated after bio-metric confirmation from the NID database.’

As per the government’s policy, Rohingya refugees were not supposed to get mobile phone connections, instead they would be provided telecom services through the public call offices installed at the camps by the state-owned mobile phone operator Teletalk.

Many of the Rohingyas were found to have been engaged in crimes at the camps, prompting the government to tighten the security measures. Curbing crimes in the camps was one of the reasons behind the order to snap mobile phone connections.

Bangladesh has been hosting over 11 million Rohingyas and most of them entered country since August 25, 2017 fleeing violence by Myanmar security forces in their homeland Rakhine State.

The government has adopted a policy not to force Rohingyas to return to their homeland and two separate initiatives to repatriate them to Myanmar have failed so far.

On January 16, 2018 Bangladesh and Myanmar inked a document on ‘Physical Arrangement’ which was supposed to facilitate the return of Rohingyas to their homeland.

The document stipulates that the repatriation will be completed preferably within two years from the day it starts.

The first batch of Rohingyas was scheduled to return on November 15 last year but it was halted amid the unwillingness of Rohingyas to go back for lack of congenial environment in Rakhine. The issuance of citizenship cards is another demand that they wanted resolved before any repatriation attempt.

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