Tuesday, May 21, 2024


Dhaka Tribune

No one knows how many SIMs are in Rohingya hands 

  • 800,000 to 1 million SIM cards are active among the Rohingya
  • 30 small shops selling SIM cards in the camps
Update : 14 Mar 2024, 09:00 AM

In Rohingya camps Cox’s Bazar, the sale of SIM cards is prohibited, but mobile phones are in almost every hand. Despite BTRC's clear ban on SIM sales, the Rohingyas are able to freely use Bangladeshi mobile phone SIMs. 

After speaking to several sources, it was found that no one has the exact number of SIMs in the hands of 1.3 million Rohingya sheltered in Ukhiya and Teknaf. The people involved in the business believe that 800,000 to 1 million SIM cards are active among the Rohingya. 

Recently, Abul Kashem (35) of Rajapalong village and Md Hassan (28) of Kutupalong village were caught by the police with 70 SIM cards. The two are local sales representatives of mobile companies. 

The investigating officer of the case said the two have given a lot of important information.

Nurul Amin is an owner of Amin Mobile Service point. He is from Ukhiya. He said that many agents or shop people take extra finger prints from customers. They are fraudulently exploiting the opportunity to register 20 mobile sims in favour of each person's NID card. 

He said the shops and agents are selling the SIMs to the Rohingyas at a higher price. There are also allegations of collecting similarly registered SIM cards from other districts and selling them to Rohingyas at exorbitant prices.

It is reported that many Rohingya in the camp use multiple mobile phone sets and multiple SIMs. As the Rohingya camps are located in border areas with Myanmar, Myanmar mobile networks are available there. For this reason, they also use mobile SIMs of different companies in Myanmar.

The staff of several international organizations working in the camp said that although the locals have network problems, the Rohingyas have 24-hour networks on their mobile phones. 

Shamim Hossain, operation in-charge of Ukhiya police station, said that a class of fraudsters, identifying themselves as sales representatives, are using the fingerprints and ID cards of locals, taking multiple SIM cards and selling them to the Rohingyas at high prices. He said that the detainees have already admitted to the act.

This reporter visited Leda, Nayapara, Shalbagan, Jadimora, Putibuniya and Kutupalong, Balukhali, Hakimpara camps in Teknaf till Saturday. At this time, mobile phones were seen in the hands of almost all men and many women. 

Some expensive mobile phones were also seen in the hands of youth and teenagers, and they were using youtube, Facebook, Whatsapp, imo, Viber and other apps.

Talking to the Rohingya youths revealed that they bought SIM cards from the shops inside the camp. However, they have no idea who the owners of the SIMs are. There are about 30 small shops selling SIM cards in the camps.

Teknaf upazila executive officer (UNO) Adnan Chowdhury said that the authorities are aware of the Rohingyas' use of mobile phones, but they have no idea how they are buying SIM without a National Identity Card. 

He stressed that the matter needs to be looked into as soon as possible.

Cox's Bazar Superintendent of Police Mahfuzul Islam could not be reached by phone. However, an official of Teknaf police station said that there is no family which does not have a mobile phone in the camps. At least 550,000 Rohingyas have mobile phones with the police.

Asked about the progress of the committee to address the issue, Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner (RRRC) Mohammad Mizanur Rahman said the committee sat for a meeting some time ago in the presence of the public security secretary. They decided to shut down Myanmar’s mobile network in the camps, but could not stop the Rohingyas from using it.

“The committee decided to give Bangladeshi SIMs to the Rohingyas, but the process has not started yet. So, the Rohingyas are now using illegal SIMs,” he added.

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