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Data on Czech Romanies to be collected with their consent-office

Prague, 25.6.2007 17:46, (CTK)

Czech institutions can collect statistical data on Romanies and members of other ethnic minorities but only with their consent, Jan Folda from the Personal Data Protection Office (UOOU) told CTK today.

He was commenting on the recent statement by Minister in charge of ethic minorities and human rights Dzamila Stehlikova (Green Party) who said that the state should try to collect statistical data on Romanies to make its projects designed to help Romanies effective.

She said that the state at present lacked data on Romany unemployment and their education.

Romany activist Ivan Vesely from the Dzeno group said that the collection of such data would not improve the situation of Romanies but, on the contrary, could harm them.

In the past, Romany activists protested against a research of the situation in Romany settlements that showed that there are more than 300 houses and areas for the poor in the Czech Republic where up to 80,000 people, mostly Romanies, live.

More than 11,400 people declared themselves Romanies in the latest national census in 2001, while according to unofficial estimates, their number could be up to 250,000.

Folda said that since data on ethnic minorities were very sensitive personal data people should express their "informed, willing and free" consent with their collection.

"People should know for what purpose the data are collected and by whom," Folda said.

He said he expected many people to refuse to provide sensitive information out of fear of discrimination against them or abuse of their data.

The state will only be able to obtain such information if a special law empowers certain institutions with collecting it, Folda said.
Vesely said it was not clear to him why the current government needed such data.

The state has enough data to fight against social segregation, he said.

"However, no one works with us and no one wants to do so. They just invent reasons to postpone the solution to the problem," Vesely told CTK today.

opt a special approach to Romanies, the state should have a clear and unified social policy for all citizens who find themselves in a disadvantageous situation, he said.

According to a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) study, a quarter of Czech Romanies live below poverty line, while it is less than 9 percent among the majority population.

Only a quarter of Romany children complete basic education, compared to three-quarters in the majority society.
One in 10 Romany households in the Czech Republic is not connected to a sewage system.

Debts for rent and electricity make up one-fifth of the Romany household's monthly income.

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