By Medina Malagić – Sarajevo
The first post-war census started on 1 October and will end tomorrow, on 15 October. After years of strenuous negotiations by political parties over the technicalities, logistics and how the cenus should look and what it should reflect, the 2013 Census is seen by the EU as a major step forward for B&H’s EU accession. However, since the beginning of the census numerous irregularities have been reported, which analyists and organizations say could jeapordize the validity of the information.
The reports of irregularities suggest that the state and entity statistics agencies in B&H were not well prepared for the census. When the census started, there was no storage space built for the specific purpose of storing the confidential data in the census forms. Thus, enumerators were instructed to take the census forms home at the end of the day until a space was found. A storage space was found a few days ago, but it will take time to make the necessary preparations and to deem the premise suitable for storing and protecting confidential data. In addition, enumerators were caught by media filling out census forms in cafes and restaurants.
According to the article 26 of the Census Law, it states that the Census Commissions of local governments are required to provide ‘storage for census materials to meet the prescribed safety measures and conditions stipulated by the Law on Protection of Personal Data’.
There were sporadic even reports of households listing 20 and more family members in one household.
A larger uproar over violations were reported in the RS entity in B&H. Bosniak returnee populations have reported that they face discrimination and that there have been attempts to not register them in order to reduce the population of Bosniaks in the RS. In addition, there have been reports where enumerators have refused to add family members of Bosniak families if they were not present in the household at the time of the census taking. There was also a lack of census forms in several municipalities in the RS. Two days ago, the RS Statistics Agency received aditional census forms that were distributed to the field on the same day.
Koalicija Jednakost, a non-profit organization that has been monitoring the implementation of the census, has deemed the census illegal only several days after it started, and has called on the B&H Statistics Agency to take immediate measures to make sure that the census is being carried out according to law.
Due to the allegations based on media reports, the B&H Statistics Agency sent an inquiry last week to entity statistics agencies in order to ascertain the veracity of media reports on irregularities. While the B&H Statistics Agency has reported that minor violations have taken place and even acknowledged that one million census forms had gone missing in the RS, which resulted in prompt action by the Agency to print more forms, the Statistics Agency has minimized the complaints that the census is not being carried out according to law.
The results of the census are scheduled to be published sometime in January 2014. There are numerous contradictions and huge allegations of census law violations, and pressure by organizations to invalidate the census results, that it is difficult to tell what will be the implications when the results of the census are finally published.