The Bangladeshi authorities announced on Monday that they would “very soon” restore mobile internet access in the Rohingya refugee camps. Restrictions on 3G and 4G networks were introduced a year ago, leading to international outcry.
Nearly one million Rohingya refugees will be able to reconnect to the Internet, the Bangladeshi government announced on Monday (August 24). Authorities say they will “very soon” lift restrictions on 3G and 4G networks blocking mobile internet access in these huge refugee camps.
Foreign Minister Masud bin Momen claimed on Monday that the spread of “baseless rumors and misinformation” could create panic and destabilize camps where several Rohingya have been killed in internal conflicts in recent years.
“By responding to inquiries from our friends and also the need to educate and disseminate the answer to Covid-19, for increased internet connection, we have made the decision to lift the restrictions for 3G and 4G mobile networks,” the minister said, indicating that the decision would ” implemented very soon “.
Barriers to the Internet had disrupted communication between the various camps and with the Rohingya who are still in Burma and elsewhere. Money transfers from the Rohingya diaspora were also more complicated.
Risk of spreading false news
According to human rights organizations, lack of internet access meant an unimpeded spread of misinformation and rumors, especially about coronavirus.
The first contamination in the camps was discovered in May, but fears that the virus would spread quickly have not yet materialized.
For Khin Maung, head of the Rohingya Youth Association, the restoration of internet access is “very good news”.
“We can now get up-to-date information about Covid-19. And we can mobilize people against human trafficking activities,” he said.
Nearly 750,000 Rohingya crossed the Burma-Bangladesh border in August 2017 and joined 200,000 other Rohingya in the country. They fled military repression in Burmese Rakhine state, which the UN has equated with ethnic cleansing.
The date of August 25, 2017 is celebrated by Rohingya as “Folk Memorial Day”.
And despite Bangladesh’s ban on demonstrations due to restrictions linked to the Covid-19 crisis, refugees are expected to mark the date with a “silent protest” that will turn ghost towns into camps, organizers say.