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Bangladesh bans phone companies from selling SIM cards to Rohingya refugees

As Myanmar's Muslim minority escape an alleged "ethnic cleansing" to Bangladesh, they find new problems in their new home.

The Bangladeshi government has banned its carriers from selling SIM cards to Rohingya refugees, reports AFP, citing security concerns. Anyone flouting the rule will face a fine.

The sales ban doesn't apply only to the Rohingya. Bangladeshis without an official identity card aren't able to sign up for a phone plan either. The government is doing this as part of a crackdown on homegrown militants, says AFP.

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"We took the step [of welcoming the Rohingya] on humanitarian grounds, but at the same time, our own security should not be compromised," said Tarana Halim, a junior telecoms minister. He did not specify how the Rohingya posed a security risk.

The decision comes under a week after Facebook listed a Rohingya group known as the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) as a "dangerous organisation,"which it defines as groups engaged in "terrorist activity" or "organised crime activity." Posts expressing support for such groups will be removed. The ARSA was declared as a terrorist group in Myanmar last month.

The ban could be just temporary. Once the Rohingya receive their biometric identity cards -- which the military said could take six months -- the ban could be lifted, according to Bangladesh's telecoms authority.

Since the Burmese military began what international organisations have called a genocide, Rohingya refugees have travelled to neighbouring Bangladesh in large numbers. More than 480,000 Rohingya are put up at overfilled camps near the border where there is dire need of shelter, food and medical care. 

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