New monitoring system to collect data on Roma community

The Czech Republic has a large Roma minority who live very much on the margins of society. But estimating the size of that minority is - and the effectiveness of government measures to lift them out of social exclusion - has always been a difficult task. The week the government announced plans for an anonymous monitoring scheme to make that picture clearer. Czeslaw Walek is the head of the Government Council for Roma Affairs; my colleague Rob Cameron asked him why the government had decided on the scheme.

"The answer is obvious I would say. It's to check how effective are the measures that government is implementing, in order to help socially excluded members of Roma communities, in order to check how effectively money is spent for these purposes in the field, and in order to check whether the situation of socially excluded Roma communities is improving."

Is it fair to assume then the system would work for example in a Labour Office when someone of apparently Roma origin comes in looking for a job, then the person working in the office would make a little tick next to his name? Is that how it's going to work?

"No, no, no. This is not how it is going to work. The only information which we will receive from the field are sociological surveys. It depends on the survey, but usually you do a field survey through questionnaires or interviews with people. Data from the Statistical Office is official, from the census. Information from other institutions, like the ministries, is mainly information about their grant schemes."

Nonetheless, seeing as in the last census only 11,000 people described themselves as Romany, are you not going to have trouble gathering accurate information when the country's 200,000 or 300,000 - nobody knows - Romanies will admit to being so?

"Yes, well, that's why we're combining those three sources. If we relied only on data from the Statistical Office, it's obviously not sufficient. That's why we want to combine it with sociological surveys, which will be done nationally."

It will still be seen some as a rather controversial scheme, perhaps bringing back rather unpleasant data from this country's past, such as the collection of data on Jewish inhabitants before the war.

"Yes, well it may, but the fact is that we need to monitor the effectiveness of those measures and the effectiveness of the money which we are spending on Roma communities, this is the first thing. Secondly, if we make a good information campaign, especially among Roma, to explain to them why we are doing it, I believe that it will cause less controversy than one would think."