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Refugees

German town bans refugees from swimming pool

A town near the German cities of Cologne and Bonn has banned male refugees from the municipal pool after sexual harassment complaints. Tension is high in Germany over immigration and women's rights.

A suburb of the German city of Bonn has forbidden adult male refugees from visiting the town's public pool, a city spokesman announced on Friday. After women at the municipal pool in Bornheim had begun complaining of sexual harassment, said the spokesman, it was clear that immediate action should be taken to protect the rights of the women.

Initially the men, who live in a shelter in Bornheim while they await the results of their asylum applications, were given access to the municipal pool as part of a small package of benefits. Soon, however, women began going to the manager saying the men's behavior was unacceptable.

While none of the incidents amounted to anything illegal, the city said it was important first and foremost to make it clear to the men that in Germany, the rights of women are sacrosanct.

"Once our social workers tell us that they have got the message, we'll terminate the measure," said Markus Schnapka, head of Bornheim's social welfare office.

Germany has been on edge about immigrants and sexual violence since a string of sexual assaults were carried out, many by asylum seekers, in the city of Cologne, which is very close to Bonn, on New Year's Eve. The attacks have sent shockwaves through a country that usually has a great deal of faith its public institutions.

The scandal has touched everyone from the Cologne chief of police, who has since stepped down, to the state of North-Rhine Westphalia's regional government, to Chancellor Angela Merkel herself and her open-door policy for refugees.

es/jil (AFP, dpa)

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