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2011 Czech census offers option of listing two nationalities

Prague, 28.2.2011 14:19, (ROMEA)

The "Census of People, Homes and Apartments" in the Czech Republic, one of the most extensive statistical determinations ever conducted here, is just around the corner and is expected to produce a great deal of valuable data which cannot be effectively determined in any other way. The census will begin at the stroke of midnight between the 25th and 26th of March.

Specially trained Roma assistants will be heading into the field together with census commissioners. Since September 2010, the Office of the Czech Government has been working with the Czech Statistical Bureau through the office of the Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Minority Affairs on an information strategy to support the participation of socially excluded Roma people in the census. The aim of this collaboration is to provide Roma people with the maximum possible amount of information about how the census will run, what purpose the results serve, and mainly to answer any and all questions Roma people might have related to the census.

Many measures have been designed to assist Roma people during the census directly in their homes. In January the Inter-ministerial Commission on Roma Minority Affairs selected 97 Roma assistants to work with the Czech Statistical Bureau commissioners in selected socially excluded Roma localities throughout the entire country. Most of the assistants are experienced workers who have already been in daily contact with excluded Roma for many years and know their needs very well; many of them also speak the Romany language.

The assistants' task will be to familiarize the residents of socially excluded Roma localities with how the census works, to reduce their mistrust of the process, and to prepare a friendly environment for the entry of the census commissioner into the household, including familiarizing Roma participants with personal data protection and explaining to them what the relationship is between the census results and the protection of the rights of national minorities. The assistants are sworn to maintain confidentiality about all facts learned during the course of the census and are given professional training.

The assistants' work aims to reduce Roma people's mistrust and concern that the data provided on their nationality might be abused. These concerns are based on Roma people's past experiences with files being kept on them which were usually used for anti-Roma measures and resulted in the restriction of their civil and human rights (particularly during the Second World War).

In addition to the assistants' field work, an information brochure has been created to respond to the most frequently asked questions related to the census. The brochure targets those who work directly with Roma people on a daily basis and Roma service users themselves. It is currently being distributed in Roma communities through the Regional Coordinators for Roma Affairs in collaboration with NGOs and community field social workers. You can also find the brochure on the website of Romea.cz.

An internet banner about the census is also being posted on the websites of significant Roma organizations and on the website of the Office of the Government of the Czech Republic. The banner explains that the option of listing Roma nationality during the census does not entail any risk that this personal data might be abused. The 2011 census offers respondents the option of listing two nationalities.

Meetings are also taking place in all 14 regions of the Czech Republic between the Regional Coordinators for Roma Affairs, the staff of the regional workplaces of the Czech Statistical Bureau, representatives of Roma civil society, municipal representatives, and staff working directly with the residents of socially excluded Roma localities. These meetings include presentations on the census and discussions of it. Members of other minorities, such as the Polish and Slovak minorities, are organizing their own campaigns on the census, many of which are even financed by their "home" states.

A toll-free phone line on the census, 800 879 702, has been in operation since 26 February. You can call there any day (weekends included) until 20 April between 8:00 and 22:00 CET. Operators will advise you on all questions concerning the census, from filling out the forms, to verifying the authenticity of the census commissioner, to advice on what to if your dog eats the census form. They can also advise you on how to complete the form online. If the census commissioner doesn't find you at home at the appointed time and you need to change the follow-up appointment to a time when you will be in, you can do that through the call center as well. Call center operators speak English as well as Czech and 45 of them will be available during peak hours. The service is being provided to the Czech Statistical Bureau by the Czech Post Office.

Gwendolyn Albert, Jarmila Balážová, Jarmila Balážová, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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