AVAJA Responds to Census Manipulation Among Roma in North Macedonia

In the last ten days, Proud Roma Free Europe’s North Macedonian partner, local civic organisation AVAJA, has noted severe irregularities in the collection of census data on Roma across the country. Manipulation of census data on Roma is occurring predominantly in non-Roma neighbourhoods, where most residents are from other ethnic communities.

In a press conference held by Avaja Monday morning, the team shared details of the following irregularities in the census thanks to their monitoring of the process on the ground:

  • In Strumica, several people were enumerated outside a store on Betovenova Street. The census taker did not ask those concerned about their ethnicity.
  • In Strumica and Radovish, members of the Turkish movement were seen walking with enumerators in Roma neighbourhoods, waving Turkish flags as census data was being collected. The State Statistical Office is aware of the case. Still, Avaja has received no information as to whether the census will be repeated in these locations and whether appropriate measures have been taken against those involved.
  • In Veles, an enumerator stated that there was no option to declare Roma ethnicity in the census questionnaire. The enumerator was subsequently removed from the census, but a few days later, was returned to the field. Avaja demands to know, ‘Who requested that the enumerator return to the field?’ ‘Will the census be repeated in the area concerned?’ ‘How can an enumerator be removed from the field due to irregularities and subsequently be sent back? ‘Has any procedure been initiated against the local census commission, which returned the enumerator to the field?’
  • In Tetovo, а Roma family was enumerated as Albanian as a result of residing in an area with Albanian majority. Instructions for enumerators not to return to the same household were also found in a notebook. Additionally, there have been several other cases in Tetovo where enumerators were reluctant to mark down individuals as Roma, asking them repeatedly to ‘verify’ their ethnicity, amounting to pressure to declare themselves otherwise.

  • In Debar and Kicevo, Roma families are being registered as Albanians without being asked about their ethnicity.
  • In Berovo, a Roma family was enumerated as Macedonian.
  • In Vinica, Roma are being registered based on ID cards alone and are being enumerated as Turks.
  • In Gostivar, requests by citizens to be registered in Romani are not being shared with the municipal census commissions. In Gostivar, enumeration based on ID cards has also been reported in Roma neighbourhoods.

All the above examples point to a series of irregularities, pressure and manipulation in the current census, demonstrating that the State Statistical Office does not have complete control over the process.

Avaja is especially keen to stress that the registration of census data based on ID cards alone will ultimately result in the quantity, not quality, of data.

To overcome these barriers for the collection of credible census data, Avaja requests the following from the director of the State Statistical Office:

  • Repeat the census in those areas where irregularities have been noted by the population and civil society
  • Extend the deadline for conducting the census in those locations where it will not be completed within the stipulated time frame and in those locations where irregularities have been noted
  • Ensure the participation of Roma enumerators where the census is to be repeated, given that certain enumerators abuse their position
  • Initiate appropriate procedures against enumerators and other relevant bodies that have consciously abused their position to manipulate census data
  • Ensure the State Statistical Office’s transparency in the census process.

Avaja has also shared their demands with:

  • The President of the state and the government of RNM
  • To the Minister of Justice
  • The diplomatic missions in the country and the OSCE and Eurostat mission

The national census is conducted to provide objective data on the population in the country. Avaja, together with Proud Roma Free Europe, call on all stakeholders to ensure the credible collection of census data to provide an accurate picture of the country’s population.

Moreover, the census is a national issue that affects the entire Roma community. We call on all political parties, civil society organisations, coalitions, networks, media and other stakeholders, led by Roma, to express their support for demands to repeat the census in those locations impacted by the mentioned irregularities.

Watch full statement from the press conference here: