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What can the 2011 Census in the Czech Republic do for Roma people? Answers here

Prague, 26.3.2011 15:15, (ROMEA)
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The Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs is collaborating with the Czech Statistical Bureau on an information strategy to support socially excluded Roma in their completion of the 2011 Census of People, Houses and Apartments. The main aim of the collaboration is to answer any questions Roma people may have about the census, as well as to provide Roma people with the maximum amount of information about how the census will run and what the census results are used for.

A significant factor influencing the willingness of Roma people to officially register their nationality in the census is the negative experiences that Roma people have had in the past with files being kept on them. Particularly during the period of the Second World War, anti-Roma measures followed such registrations and resulted in the violation of Roma people's civil and human rights.

News server Romea.cz is publishing some basic questions and answers on the census below. These questions and answers are also listed on fliers designed by the Czech Government Inter-ministerial Commission for Roma Community Affairs.

Why is the census held?

The census brings us a great deal of important information which is then used to undertake changes that will influence the lives of each us during the next decade. A few examples:

MINORITIES

Data on nationality makes it possible for minorities to acquire influence with respect to events in the Czech Republic and their efforts to achieve the position guaranteed them by the law on national minority rights.

MONEY

The census will influence the distribution of money among the EU countries, for example, to support both adult and child education, culture, improvements to housing and transportation, job creation, and social programs.

ELEMENTARY AND NURSERY SCHOOLS

The census shows us which parts of municipalities include children of preschool and school age and how many children there are. According to this information, town councilors will decide where elementary and nursery schools should open and where it would not be appropriate to close them.

TRANSPORTATION

According to the information on how often people commute to school or to work and the location of those commutes, a plan is developed as to how many buses, trains and trams are needed in which places and how often they should run.

What might the census bring to members of the Roma minority?

There is one voluntary question on nationality in the census form. The number of persons claiming Roma nationality will influence the attention paid by the national government, the regional governments, and municipal governments to addressing the problems of Roma people during the next decade.

COMMITTEES FOR NATIONAL MINORITIES

Municipalities in which a minimum of 10 % of the population claims membership in a national minority will set up COMMITTEES FOR NATIONAL MINORITIES, the members of which must be representatives of those minorities. Roma people will have representatives on such committees thanks to the census information.

The members of these committees oversee the degree to which the rights of minority members are upheld, draw the attention of the municipal council to the minority's needs, advocate for the preservation of minority culture and language, and promote educational and social programs for the minority.

Such committees will also be established at regional level should a minimum of 5 % of the population claim membership in a national minority.

Can someone tell from the census results whether I claimed Roma nationality?

No. A name is only listed on the census form so the census commissioner can directly deliver the form to you and to prevent people from filling out the form twice on accident. Once the forms are submitted for processing, all personal data (such as names) are destroyed.

The census results are general, public information about the entire population living in the Czech Republic. No one will be able to read what sort of information individual people gave about themselves.

What if I do not want the census commissioner to see what I have written on the form?

In that case, you can complete the form through the internet at www.scitani.cz as of 26 March 2011. To sign in and access the electronic form, use the code printed on the paper form the census commissioner gave you. Otherwise, you can also ask the commissioner for an envelope in which to send the completed paper form through the mail. Both the census commissioner and his or her Roma assistant are sworn to preserve confidentiality regarding everything they learn during the census.

What is the difference between citizenship and nationality?

Be careful - these pieces of information are different. That is why the census form asks two separate questions about them.

NATIONALITY is a person's feeling that he or she belongs to a group of people with respect to the language he or she uses and the customs or values he or she recognizes.

To hold the CITIZENSHIP of a state means to hold an identity card or passport of that state, to have the opportunity to vote and to be elected in that state, and to claim the protection of that state. In the Czech Republic you can be a citizen of the Czech Republic and also a nationality other than Czech.

May I list two nationalities?

Yes. If, for example, you have a relationship to the nation of your parents, its culture and language, but you also feel like a Czech, Moravian, Pole, Slovak, or anyone else, you can express that in the voluntary question on nationality.

May I list Romanes as my native language?

Yes. Anyone can even list more than one native language if, for example, you ordinarily use Czech but your parents spoke Romanes to you when you were a child.

Who will be counted and where?

The census is of all people who are on the territory of the Czech Republic at midnight between 25 and 26 March 2011. This includes, for example, citizens of Slovakia without permanent residence in the Czech Republic who find themselves here at that time.

What can happen to me if I do not participate in the census?

Participation in the 2011 census is obligatory per Section 7 of the Law on the Census of People, Houses and Apartments. Whoever refuses to participate in the census may be fined as much as CZK 10 000 by the municipal authorities.

What should I do if I am not completely certain how to complete the census form?

The forms have been distributed by the census commissioners since 7 March 2011. The commissioners have instructions available in Romanes, but if you don't understand something, the commissioner will be glad to help explain anything to you.

MORE INFORMATION ON THE CENSUS IS AVAILABLE AT WWW.SCITANI.CZ - or through the free census information line 800 87 97 02

Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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