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The Financial Express

Govt urged to lift internet restrictions at Rohinga refugee camps

Published: April 03, 2020 14:36:54 | Updated: April 03, 2020 21:34:52


Rohingya refugee children walk along the road at Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 16, 2018. REUTERS/File Photo Rohingya refugee children walk along the road at Balukhali camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, November 16, 2018. REUTERS/File Photo

Human Rights Watch (HRW) along with 50 other organisations in a joint letter urged the government to lift ongoing mobile internet restrictions and halt the construction of barbed wire fencing around the Rohingya refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar District.

These measures threaten the safety and well-being of the refugees as well as Bangladesh host communities and aid workers, in light of the growing COVID-19 pandemic, they said in a statement on April 1.

The organisations also urged the government to take initiatives so that refugees, local communities, and aid workers can freely access mobile and internet communications. 

As authorities around the world struggle to cope with the spread of COVID-19, it is crucial that states act to protect the most vulnerable, including refugee populations, they said.

“We have welcomed the Bangladesh government’s efforts to host the Rohingya refugees who were forced to flee atrocities perpetrated by the Myanmar Army. We also commend the Bangladesh Government for working closely with the humanitarian community on COVID-19 preparedness and response in Cox’s Bazar District, including efforts to establish isolation and treatment facilities”, they said.

As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads to Bangladesh, unrestricted access to information via mobile and internet communications is crucial for slowing the transmission of the disease and saving the lives of refugees, humanitarian workers, and the general population of Bangladesh, the organisations stated.

“Lifting restrictions will not only enable community health workers to quickly share and receive the most reliable and up-to-date guidance during this evolving pandemic, but will also help in coordination with community leaders”, they added.

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