utorak, 5. studenoga 2013.

The Census Started and Completed, the Old Problems Remained

According to the official Population Census of 1991, the number of 8964 of the Roma population lived in Bosnia and Herzegovina; however, the Roma non-governmental organizations, around 80 of them in BiH, have concluded that this number is much higher, estimating the number of the Roma population currently living in Bosnia and Herzegovina to range from 85,000 – 100,000.

This indicates that the Roma population mainly declared themselves, during the 1991 Census, as Yugoslavs, Moslems, Serbs, Croats and, to a great extent, none of the offered options, and the cause for such a situation was the fear of discrimination, which would negatively reflect on the social prosperity of the Roma. During the war in BiH, horrific movements of the Roma population occurred in the sense of changing their residential addresses. Assumptions are that, during this period, more than 1/3 of them emigrated from BiH, whereas more than 85% of those, who were unable to leave to other countries, fled from the territory of Republika Srpska to the Federation of BiH.

Twenty or so years after since the last Census, the Governments of BiH have finally decided to do the population and household census. And, just as everything else happening in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the same happened to the Census – the issue has first gotten politicized with the aim to collect/gather the voting bodies, frightening them from the other and different. Chase and campaigns about who is who, whether it is right to be a Bosnian and Herzegovinian, a Serb or Orthodox, a Croat or Bosnian Croat, Bosniak or Moslem, a Jew or Hebrew, a Gypsy or Roma are those which nobody is interested in or are at least less interested from the question how and what do we make our living on as the Roma, Jews, Bosniaks, Serbs or Croats.

And while chases and campaigns lasted and, at the same time, the state and entity Agencies for Statistics were “sort of” performing training of the Census staff and instructors, it has been known in advance what are the numbers of those that must be Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats, while the “Others” are, again, put altogether. It is not important that the Roma population has requested, in the Roma communities that we, the activists, serve as observers, if not as the Census staff or to work as the Census staff in our communities in the presence of non-Roma population. However, the politics has done its thing and the very few of the Roma Census staff – about 10 of them in the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina, even though at least 100 of them applied – were sent as far away from the Roma community and as far away from the place they come form or reside as possible, thus some of them were forced to give up.

The Roma communities were dealt with by the Census staff – the cases marked in Banovici, Kalesija, Brcko District, Vukosavlje, who, at their own discretion, and I would daresay according to the orders of the “instruction-givers”, were recording the Roma population either as Bosniaks or Serbs. In some of the areas, only after the intervention of the activists of the Roma non-governmental sector, they have tried to correct the “injustice”. However, this injustice could not have been corrected by anybody in the area of Banovici Municipality, where the Census staff refused any intervention by the citizens in question. What is the most drastic in this case was that this issue was with the family of a Roma leader and municipal counsel in the municipality of Banovici.

Of course, the Roma, as well as all the others, are waiting to get the results of the Census, although we assume that, after receiving these results, that the official number of the Roma in Bosnia and Herzegovina will be significantly lower that the actual number. As everyone else in BiH, the Roma population had not spent time “sitting with our arms and legs crossed”; we had also prepared for the Census in a way that we visited almost every single family in BiH, encouraging them to freely declare themselves. On that occasion we found out that there was around 126,000 of the Roma population living in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Having in mind that more than 1,500 Roma families left Bosnia and Herzegovina in the last few months prior to the Census, we expect that a realistic number of the Roma concluded by the Census could range from 90,000 to 95,000 persons. Whether the statistics, judging by all in a very disputable and politicized Census, will come up with this number remains to be seen.

Dervo Sejdić
Roma Non-Governmental Sector Activist

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