Bangladesh imposes mobile phone ban on refugees

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Left parties from South Asian countries today urged the global community, including the governments of India, Myanmar, Bangladesh and Nepal, to adopt a roadmap to resolve the Rohingya refugee crisis.

All India Majlis-e-Ittehad-ul Muslimeen (AIMIM) president Asaduddin Owaisi on Thursday termed Union Minister Rajnath Singh's statement that Rohingya Muslims are "illegal immigrants" as 'disingenuous'.

But Rohingya Muslim leaders said it could be because villages located near the border in Myanmar's Rakhine state were now empty.

However, telecom companies have asserted that the ban could be lifted once the refugees get biometric identity cards in a process which the army claims might take six months.

The Rohingya refugees began fleeing Myanmar from August 25 when Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) rebels attacked police checkposts and killed 12 security personnel, triggering a military crackdown.

The top US diplomat for Southeast Asia says America remains deeply troubled by the ongoing crisis in Myanmar's Rakhine state and allegations of human rights abuses there. The government says there is no such ethnicity as Rohingya and that they are Bengalis who illegally migrated to Myanmar from Bangladesh.

However, refuting the government's claim, in the affidavit filed in the Supreme Court, Rohingyas said they have no terror links.

Myanmar's military says its operation is aimed at rooting out militants and has repeatedly denied targeting civilians.

India has stepped up security along its largely porous eastern border with Bangladesh and is using "chilli and stun grenades" to block the entry of Rohingya Muslims fleeing from violence in their homeland of Myanmar, officials said on Friday. Nearly all said the perpetrators were men in uniform who they identified as Myanmar military.

"Almost three weeks later, we can see in real time how there is no let-up in the campaign of violence against Rohingya in northern Rakhine State".

At the moment, United Nations agencies say it is hard to ensure aid is distributed evenly because refugees are undocumented.

"One small event could lead to an outbreak that may be the tipping point between a crisis and a catastrophe", said MSF emergency coordinator Robert Onus. She said that the "great majority" of Muslims within the conflict zone stayed and that "more than 50 percent of their villages were intact".

The decision on Saturday to impose a communication blackout on the stateless Muslim minority was justified for security reasons, said junior telecoms minister Tarana Halim.

Addressing the UN General Assembly that day, Secretary-General António Guterres condemned what he described as "a vicious cycle of persecution, discrimination, radicalization and violent repression" and urged the Myanmar government to end military operations in Rahkine state and allow unhindered humanitarian access.

In continuance of yesterday's initiative to send relief packages to Rohingya immigrants in Bangladesh, India on Sunday loaded approximately 21,000 units of relief material on the INS Gharial to help its neighbouring nation evolve from the ongoing crisis.

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