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No asylum seekers allowed in German city’s public pool after sexual assault reports

Reports of assaults in public swimming pools have emerged from multiple German cities, including Munich. (BigStock)

LONDON — The western German city of Bornheim has banned male asylum seekers older than 18 from using the city's swimming pool. Officials said the decision was made after consecutive cases of sexual assaults at the city-run swimming pool.

The city's head of social affairs, Markus Schnapka, confirmed that decision, according to German media reports.

The city said that no one has been charged after the incidents that led to the ban, which will remain in place until "the message has come across," Schnapka was quoted as saying. There are about 800 refugees in Bornheim, a city of about 45,000 people.

The decision comes at a sensitive time: On New Year's Eve, dozens of men — some of them allegedly asylum seekers — robbed and assaulted an unknown number of women at the main train station in the German city of Cologne. Reports of similar, if smaller, assaults have emerged from across Europe. Moreover, Sweden's police have recently been accused of trying to cover up incidents of sexual assault last year, also allegedly committed by asylum seekers.

According to regional public broadcaster WDR, Schnapka had communicated the city's decision personally during a visit to the local refugee center. The city is now planning to hold meetings with individuals as well as group sessions to discuss issues such as respect for women, as well as recent assaults. Other reports of assaults in public swimming pools emerged from other German cities, including Munich.

"I know that I do an injustice to most people, but I do not see an alternative way to send this clear message," Schnapka reportedly said.

Some refugees interviewed by local TV station WDR showed support for the city decision: "I am embarrassed for my fellow believers. Such things must not happen," the unnamed refugee reportedly said, referring to past incidents of sexual assaults.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has faced increasing criticism against her open-door approach toward refugees. Last year, Germany took in about 1.1 million asylum seekers, after Merkel's decision to allow most Syrian asylum seekers into the country.

On Thursday, a regional administrative head sent dozens of refugees on a bus to the chancellor's office in Berlin as part of a protest against having to host the asylum seekers in his district. The refugees were told they would be accommodated in the capital but ended up instead as part of a symbolic protest against Merkel's policies. After hours of waiting, most of them were transported back to their original accommodation in southern Germany.

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