Govt to sell SIMs to Rohingyas | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 22, 2017 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, September 22, 2017

Govt to sell SIMs to Rohingyas

The government is working out a process to sell mobile SIM cards to Rohingya refugees who entered Bangladesh to escape genocide in Myanmar.

The development comes after the telecom division got information that different mobile operators' local representatives were selling SIM cards to Rohingyas that are even biometrically verified using details of Bangladeshi nationals.

The Department of Immigra-tion and Passports has already started a process to biometrically register all the Rohingya refugees who entered Bangladesh.

The Rohingyas are given a card loaded with their biometrics, and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission plans to allow the Rohingyas to buy SIM cards with six-month validity with that ID card.

The telecom regulator on Wednesday wrote to the government for its nod, said a top official of the telecom division requesting not to be named.

“If the government does not increase the timeframe, the SIM cards will automatically be deactivated,” said a top official of the telecom division requesting not to be named.

Earlier this month, different local news media published reports that retailers and distributors of mobile operators were using loud speakers near the refugee camps advertising their pre-activated and biometrically verified SIM cards.

The telecom division also warned the mobile operators about this and sought explanations from them, said a senior executive of a top mobile operator.

The BTRC also asked the operators to find out which retailers and distributors were engaging in the illegal practice.

Last week, the government has acquired a software system from a Bangladeshi firm, Tiger IT, to record biometric data of Rohingyas as part of its efforts to document the refugees.

A top official of Tiger IT said a good number of Rohingyas have already registered under the process.

Apart from the fingerprints, several information of each refugee -- including name, gender, age, photo, parents' name, birthplace, nationality, country and religion -- is being stored in a dedicated server.

Each person is also receiving an ID card with a barcode containing all the relevant information.

Since August 25, more than four lakh Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh, according to the International Organisation for Migration. 

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