Bangladesh halts new SIM card sale in Rohingya camps

Rohingya refugees wait to get their mobile phones charged at Bangladesh’s Kutupalong refugee camp, where mobile phone retailers have been told not to sell any new SIM cards, in this October 7, 2017. (AFP)
Updated 09 September 2019

Bangladesh halts new SIM card sale in Rohingya camps

  • It is a further sign of Dhaka’s impatience following the latest failed repatriation move
  • Bangladesh has been hosting around a million Rohingya refugees in vast camps

DHAKA: Bangladesh mobile operators have on government orders stopped selling new SIM cards to Rohingya refugees, officials said Monday, in a further sign of Dhaka’s impatience following the latest failed repatriation move.
Bangladesh has been hosting around a million Rohingya refugees in vast camps in the south-east since a military crackdown in neighboring Myanmar prompted a huge exodus in August 2017.
In late August a repatriation initiative fell flat with the long-oppressed minority refugees refusing to return to Myanmar without guarantees for their safety and for citizenship.
Adding to frustration in Dhaka, this was followed by a protest by some 200,000 Rohingya to mark two years since their arrival.
There has also been a spike in violence and a rise in tensions with locals, and authorities fear Internet and telephone access could contribute to further unrest.
Bangladeshi security forces have shot dead at least 34 Rohingya over the past two years, mostly for alleged methamphetamines trafficking. Rights groups accuse police of carrying out extrajudicial killings.
Bangladesh’s telecommunications regulator on September 3 ordered phone companies to cut off mobile access in the three dozen refugee camps, citing security grounds.
The four mobile phone operators were given seven days to submit reports on actions they have taken to shut down data connectivity and were ordered to stop selling SIM (subscriber identity module) cards in the camp areas.
“Already, SIM card sale has been stopped in the camp areas,” S.M. Farhad, secretary general of the Association of Mobile Telecom Operators of Bangladesh (AMTOB), which represents all mobile phone operators, said on Monday.
He said high speed third- and fourth-generation (3G and 4G) mobile Internet connections in the region has also been suspended between 5:00PM and 6:00AM every day.
The operators also restricted coverage to within Bangladesh following allegations that Rohingya over the border in Myanmar were using the networks, he said.
Mohammad Abul Monsur, police chief at Ukhia town where the world’s largest refugee camp, Kutupalong, is located, confirmed the development, saying mobile phone retailers have been told not to sell any new SIM cards in the region.
“No new SIM cards are being sold in Ukhia,” he said, adding police have monitored the town the last two days.
Bangladesh has in the past tried to restrict mobile access but it was not enforced seriously, spawning booming markets of mobile phones and SIM cards in the camps.
The latest ban has stunned the refugees, with leaders saying it would hugely affect their life and security, disrupting communications between different camps and with Rohingya still in Myanmar.
Rights group Human Rights Watch on Saturday urged the government to end the communications clampdown, saying it “made matters worse.”
“The authorities should take a level-headed approach instead of overreacting to tensions and protests by isolating Rohingya refugees in camps,” HRW said.


London police charge homeless man with mosque stabbing

Updated 22 February 2020

London police charge homeless man with mosque stabbing

  • Suspect Daniel Horton stabbed London Central Mosque’s muazzin Raafat Maglad during daily prayers on Thursday
  • Horton will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a preliminary hearing later Saturday

LONDON: London police on Saturday charged a 29-year-old homeless man with causing grievous bodily harm and possessing an illegal knife he used to stab a mosque leader during prayers.
Suspect Daniel Horton stabbed London Central Mosque’s muazzin Raafat Maglad during daily prayers on Thursday.
London police quickly ruled out a terror motive.
Maglad was treated at a London hospital and returned to the mosque for Friday’s evening service with his arm wrapped in a sling,
“I forgive him. I feel very sorry for him,” Maglad told reporters on Friday.
“To me, as a Muslim, I don’t need to put any hatred in my heart.”
Several regulars at the Regent’s Park area mosque in northwest London said they had seen Horton attend a few services in the past year.
Horton will appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for a preliminary hearing later Saturday.