Many Roma are reluctant to register their nationality

Czech National Census

One of the results of this year's census, which was held in March, shows a surprisingly low number of the population registered as Romanies, just 0.1 percent of the population, Olga Szantova reports.

Czech National Census
According to Markus Pape of the European Roma Rights Center, this figure represents only one in 20 of the Romanies living in the Czech Republic.

"Many Roma do not want to get registered as being members of the Roma community. A lot of them are afraid to say so, because they are afraid of problems with the state administration and also with neo-Nazis who could find out."

Monika Horakova, the only Roma MP in the Czech Republic, agrees that many Romas are afraid to admit their nationality:

"They are afraid and they do not feel safe, I think they just did not believe the government."

But, does that fully explain why the number of Czech citizens registered as Roma has dropped by two thirds since the last census ten years ago? Miss Horakova feels that not enough was done to prepare the census:

"Before the census I was talking about the necessity to make some information campaign in the Roma community about the census, what the census results can bring them and why it is safe to tell your nationality. And I think that the government did not pay enough attention to the information campaign for the Roma."

Did the Roma organizations inform their members sufficiently?

"They tried to find some people who would go to the Roma community to help fill out the census lists, but I am not well informed, how this was done."

Do you see this result as a lack of activity of the Roma organizations?

"I'm not really sure. You know, the census is a governmental issue and I think that the government should undertake enough activity to explain the census for the Roma. This is not an NGO issue."

Markus Pape also points out that many of those who registered as being Romanies in 1991 have left the country and found new homes in various parts of the world. They tended to be the better educated and more confident members of the Roma community. Those who stayed in the Czech Republic are in many cases less self-confident and reluctant to live and act as Romanies, because they believe that the majority population tends to ostracize them.

"In the Czech Republic apparently there is a very single-national approach and it is better to say "I'm Czech" and to be a part of the majority than to realize your own identity, your own culture, your own nationality."

Author: Olga Szantová
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