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Census in north marred by delays and doubts.


Simon Bahceli

CONTROVERSY continued to surround Sunday's census in the north yesterday amid numerous claims that many had been left uncounted - despite a day-long curfew imposed for the headcount.

The north's census was held after Turkish and Greek Cypriot negotiators agreed earlier this year that the two sides' population needed to be ascertained ahead of a reunification deal. The population of the north has long been a contentious issue with many believing the indigenous Turkish Cypriot population to now be dwarfed by immigration from Turkey.

"We extended the census into yesterday evening beyond the 6pm curfew, and will continue visiting uncounted people at home for the next two to three days," 'state planning organisation undersecretary' Ali Korhan told the Cyprus Mail in defence of the census yesterday. He added that those casting doubt on the validity of the census were doing so "purely for political reasons".

While admitting some homes were yet to be visited by census officials, Korhan insisted that UN-employed demographics experts had been in the north on Sunday and yesterday and had been pleased that the census had been carried out correctly.

"We know what we are doing, and we know that our census was put together and carried out according to UN and international norms," he said, pouring blame on media outlets and politicians who sought to cast doubt on the headcount's validity. Any problems with the census stemmed, he said, from the speed at which the authorities had to carry it out.

"This is why we had to ask people to stay home. There was pressure to get the census done before the end of the year for the sake of the [reunification] negotiations," he said.

Korhan added that observers who were here for the count on Sunday would also be in the north "for a final evaluation" of the results, which he says will provide detailed information on not only the ethnic background of the north's population but also its socio-economic profile.

Despite Korhan's reassurances, many in the north still say they have not been counted. Media outlets were inundated by calls on Sunday from individuals complaining they had waited at home all day for officials that never came. Top selling daily Kibris described the headcount as "controversial", while out-spoken left-wing daily Afrika dubbed it a "fiasco".

It also emerged that on Sunday several hundred of the 8,000 officials employed to carry out the census failed to appear and had to be replaced by staff who were not properly trained to collect the data. Complaints were also rife from people upset by some of the questions in the census.

One demographics' expert in the north, who preferred not to be named, said the census had been marred by people deliberately not cooperating because they felt the census itself had a political agenda.

"There is a kind of hysteria surrounding population here," he said but added: "When you have the prime minister himself saying there are 600,000 people in the north, how can you expect the man on the street to make rational statements about it?"

The expert added his contention that the real population was around half that figure and that all births, deaths, arrivals and departures of people in the north were recorded and accessible to researchers.

"There was really no need for a census," he said.

Yesterday the authorities were asking yet uncounted individuals to phone their local district offices so they could be visited by census officials. Many complained however that their calls remained unanswered or that they were still yet to receive a visit.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2011

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Date:Dec 6, 2011
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