Bangladesh on Sunday barred telecom companies from selling mobile phone connections to Rohingya refugees in the country. “For the time being, they can’t buy any SIM cards,” Enayet Hossain, a senior officer at the Telecoms Ministry, told AFP.

Junior Telecoms Minister Tarana Halim said the restrictions have been imposed for security reasons. According to the United Nations, more than 4,20,000 Rohingya refugees have fled to Bangladesh since August 25, when fresh violence erupted in Myanmar.

The country’s four telecom majors have been threatened with fine if they provide connection to the refugees till the time the ban is in place. The authorities said the ban could be lifted once biometric identity cards were issued to the refugees. The process may take six months.

The Rohingya crisis

Rohingyas have been denied citizenship in Myanmar, and are classified as illegal immigrants, despite them claiming roots going back centuries in the country. The community has been subjected to violence by the Buddhist majority and the Army in Myanmar. The country’s de-facto leader and Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi has been criticised for failing to stand up for more than 10 lakh stateless Rohingya Muslims in Rakhine.