Human Rights Watch (HRW) said today that Bangladesh government should end restrictions imposed on "freedom of movement" and access to the internet and online communications of the Rohingya refugees.
As per HRW, the Bangladesh government has intensified restrictions after failing to repatriate the refugees to Myanmar. This was followed by a large rally by the Rohingya refugees, and the killings of a local politician along with four refugees.
“Bangladesh authorities have a major challenge in dealing with such a large number of refugees, but they have made matters worse by imposing restrictions on communications and their freedom of movement,” said Brad Adams, Asia director of HRW.
“The authorities should take a level-headed approach instead of overreacting to tensions and protests by isolating Rohingya refugees in camps,” he added.
On September 1, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) passed a week’s notice to the country’s telecommunication operators to shut down mobile phone services in all the refugee camps. The next day, BTRC ordered the mobile network operators to shut down 3G and 4G services in the camps from 5pm to 6am every day.
The 13-hour daily shutdown puts approximately a million refugees at serious security and health risks by cutting off communications and other necessary services that are needed throughout the night.
The authorities have claimed that the routine shutdown is to enhance security. They, however, have not explained how.
On September 4, Bangladesh’s Parliamentary Standing Committee on Defense recommended building a security fence around the camps. A standing committee member, Muhammad Faruk Khan, said: “We have been observing the Rohingyas are freely moving around the camps and outside. Therefore, to ensure security we recommended taking measures so that no one can come out of the camps and no one can enter inside the camps.”