German town bars asylum seekers from pool after harassment complaints

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A western German town has barred adult male asylum seekers from its public indoor swimming pool after receiving complaints that some women were sexually harassed there.

It was the latest sign of social tensions related to the arrival last year of 1.1 million migrants in Germany, followed by sex assaults on women by young male asylum seekers and migrants during New Year's Eve celebrations in the city of Cologne.

The deputy mayor of Bornheim, a town of 48,000 some 30 km south of Cologne, said on Friday that a difficult decision was taken to send a clear message that breaching German cultural norms was a red line that should not be crossed.

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"There have been complaints of sexual harassment and chatting-up going on in this swimming pool ... by groups of young men, and this has prompted some women to leave (the premises)," Markus Schnapka told Reuters.

"This led to my decision that adult males from our asylum shelters may not enter the swimming pool until further notice."

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German town bars asylum seekers from pool after harassment complaints
A poster informs about pool rules in a public swimming pool in Munich, southern Germany, on January 12, 2016. The city of Bornheim near Bonn, western Germany, has decided to ban male asylum seekers from its public pool since women have complained about harassment by migrants. / AFP / dpa / Sven Hoppe / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read SVEN HOPPE/AFP/Getty Images)
The indoor swimming pool in Bornheim, western Germany, photographed Friday Jan. 15, 2016. The town of Bornheim has banned male refugees from a local swimming pool after complaints from female bathers and staff. An official in Bornheim says other visitors complained of sexual harassment by men living in a nearby asylum seeker shelter. Bornheim is a few kilometers (miles) south of Cologne, which experienced a string of robberies and sexual assaults at New Year that police blamed largely on foreigners. The incident has stoked a debate in Germany about how to integrate the almost 1.1 million asylum seekers who arrived last year. (Henning Kaiser/dpa via AP)
A poster informs about pool rules in a public swimming pool in Munich, southern Germany, on January 12, 2016. The city of Bornheim near Bonn, western Germany, has decided to ban male asylum seekers from its public pool since women have complained about harassment by migrants. / AFP / dpa / Sven Hoppe / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read SVEN HOPPE/AFP/Getty Images)
A banner with flowers is placed on the steps to the Cologne cathedral reading in english and arabic "sexual harassment against women will not be tolerated", Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Cologne Germany. The New Yearâs Eve sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne were blamed largely on foreigners. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
Mohamad of Lebanon, left, and Nabil of Morocco are holding a banner in front of the Cologne cathedral to apologize for other migrants' crime Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, in Cologne, Germany. The sign reads "we stand in solidarity in our hearts with you, we refuse violence and hope you accept our apologize". The New Yearâs Eve sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne were blamed largely on foreigners. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
A banner with flowers on the steps to the Cologne cathedral reads in english and arabic "sexual harassment against women will not be tolerated", Tuesday, Jan. 12, 2016, Cologne Germany. The New Yearâs Eve sexual assaults and robberies in Cologne were blamed largely on foreigners. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)
People take part in a demonstration against violence against women in front of the cathedral in Cologne, western Germany, on January 9, 2015 where sexual assaults in a crowd of migrants took place on New Year's Eve. / AFP / Roberto Pfeil (Photo credit should read ROBERTO PFEIL/AFP/Getty Images)
Women hold signs reading 'We are no fair game' to protest against violence against women in Hamburg, northern Germany, on January 10, 2016. Police in the northern German city of Hamburg said they have recorded 133 cases of offences including sexual assaults allegedly committed against women during New Year's celebrations. / AFP / dpa / Bodo Marks / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BODO MARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold up signs while taking part in a demonstration against violence against women in front of the cathedral in Cologne, western Germany, on January 9, 2015 where sexual assaults in a crowd of migrants took place on New Year's Eve. / AFP / Roberto Pfeil (Photo credit should read ROBERTO PFEIL/AFP/Getty Images)
A man holds up a sign reading 'No violence against women' as he takes part in a demonstration in front of the cathedral in Cologne, western Germany, on January 9, 2015 where sexual assaults in a crowd of migrants took place on New Year's Eve. / AFP / Roberto Pfeil (Photo credit should read ROBERTO PFEIL/AFP/Getty Images)
EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / A woman holds up a sign reading 'Sexists and racists are assholes-everywhere' while taking part in a demonstration against violence against women in front of the cathedral in Cologne, western Germany, on January 9, 2015 where sexual assaults in a crowd of migrants took place on New Year's Eve. / AFP / Roberto Pfeil (Photo credit should read ROBERTO PFEIL/AFP/Getty Images)
Women hold signs reading 'We are no fair game' to protest against violence against women in Hamburg, northern Germany, on January 10, 2016. Police in the northern German city of Hamburg said they have recorded 133 cases of offences including sexual assaults allegedly committed against women during New Year's celebrations. / AFP / dpa / Bodo Marks / Germany OUT (Photo credit should read BODO MARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
People hold up signs while taking part in a demonstration against violence against women in front of the cathedral in Cologne, western Germany, on January 9, 2015 where sexual assaults in a crowd of migrants took place on New Year's Eve. / AFP / Roberto Pfeil (Photo credit should read ROBERTO PFEIL/AFP/Getty Images)
Police officers patrol in front of the main station of Cologne, Germany, on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. More women have come forward alleging they were sexually assaulted and robbed during New Yearâs celebrations in the German city of Cologne, as police faced mounting criticism for their handling of the incident. (AP Photo/Hermann J. Knippertz)
People walk across the square in front of the main station in Cologne, Germany, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2016. More women have come forward alleging they were sexually assaulted and robbed during New Yearâs celebrations in the German city of Cologne, as police faced mounting criticism for their handling of the incident. (AP Photo/Hermann J. Knippertz)
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He did not say how the ban would be enforced. German media say asylum seekers, who get no funds from the state, must present an identification document to be admitted to pools at a discounted rate.

Schnapka said his town had begun a campaign in local asylum seekers' shelters to teach the occupants about gender equality and respect for women.

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The gang attacks on women outside Cologne's historic cathedral on the Rhine river deepened public doubts about Chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy toward refugees fleeing conflicts in the Middle East and about Germany's ability to integrate the mainly Muslim and Arab newcomers.

Police investigations into the incidents of sexual molestation are focusing on 19 suspects, including 10 asylum seekers and nine illegal migrants thought to be from North Africa. Police said the suspects came from outside Cologne.

On Thursday, a carnival parade planned for next month in Rheinberg, a town north of Cologne, was canceled after organizers said they would not be able to provide a security plan for the event on Feb. 8 as required by police.

German media reports said the decision arose partly from the fact that the parade route would have run near an asylum shelter with 500 residents. Rheinberg Mayor Frank Tatzel denied this when contacted by Reuters.

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Merkel is now under increasing pressure to stem the flow of migrants coming to Germany. Several thousand continue to stream in every day and there has been a backlash by right-wing nationalist groups.

(Writing by Joseph Nasr; Editing by Mark Heinrich)

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