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Terror watch being kept on Rohingya refugee influx

Anjana Sankar
Filed on September 25, 2017 | Last updated on September 25, 2017 at 06.59 am
Rohingya refugees react as aid is distributed in Coxs Bazar, Bangladesh
Rohingya refugees react as aid is distributed in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh

(Reuters)

Bangladesh has banned telecommunication companies from selling mobile phone connections to the refugees, citing security concerns.


Bangladesh is keeping a close watch on the refugee influx to make sure Rohingya camps are not targeted by extremist elements for potential recruits, a senior official from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told Khaleej Times.

"We are seriously concerned about this. And we are watchful and determined not to allow such elements to infiltrate the camps," said the official.

Bangladesh has banned telecommunication companies from selling mobile phone connections to the refugees, citing security concerns.

"The situation is critical. Hundreds of thousands of desperate people are pouring in through the borders. It is likely some extremists organisations will try to exploit the situation."

The official said his government is especially watching over the young male refugees, who are potential recruits. "A vast majority of the people who have come in are women, children and the old. The young men are the main target, and we are very cautious," said the official.

The Government of India is calling Rohingya refugees a security threat, and seeking to deport them. In an affidavit submitted to the Supreme Court, Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government said Indian intelligence agencies suspect Rohingya Muslims in India are in touch with Pakistan-based militant groups. India has over 40,000 Rohingya living in the country since a decade, after fleeing persecution in Myanmar.

Refusing to comment on India's stand on the issue, the official said his government's intelligence sources have so far not come across terrorist link of Rohingya refugees. 

Experts have warned Daesh operatives are determined to mount attacks on Myanmar to support Rohingya Muslims.

Since August 24, an estimated 400,600 Rohingya have fled Myanmar and taken shelter in Bangladesh after a military crackdown, which the UN has condemned as "textbook example of ethnic cleansing". The Myanmar government has blamed a Rohingya militant group for mounting attacks on its security forces.

The latest influx of refugees have put huge pressure on Bangladesh, stretching the limits of international aid agencies. To coordinate relief distribution in a more disciplined manner, the Bangladeshi army has taken over the task in the refugee camps in Cox's Bazar since Sunday.

The foreign ministry official said Bangladesh has received a total of 270,000 tonnes of relief material since August 24 from various international aid organisations. "The Bangladesh government has brought in an additional 500,000 tonnes of aid and relief materials," said the official.

Mohammed Abul Kalam, refugee relief and repatriation commissioner, Cox's Bazar, told Khaleej Times that the government has distributed 50,000 tarpaulins to Rohingya families so far. "Our target is to reach 84,000 tarpaulins in the coming weeks, covering an estimated 250,000 people," said Kalam.

According to UN estimates, $200 million is needed to help the refugees in Bangladesh. 

anjana@khaleejtimes.com





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