The Malta Independent 23 July 2016, Saturday

German town bans refugees from using pool after women and staff complain about harassment

Associated Press Saturday, 16 January 2016, 10:03 Last update: about 7 months ago

A town in western Germany has banned male refugees from a swimming pool after complaints of harassment from female bathers and staff — news that comes as a national poll Friday showed that Germans are becoming increasingly concerned about the country's ability to integrate the huge numbers of asylum-seekers who arrived last year.

Markus Schnapka, who heads the social affairs department in Bornheim, said other visitors had complained of sexual harassment by men living in a nearby asylum-seeker shelter. He said none of the complaints were on the criminal level and the pool had agreed the ban would end once social workers confirmed the men "got the message."

Bornheim is a few kilometers (miles) south of Cologne, which saw hundreds of robberies and sexual assaults during New Year's celebrations that police blamed largely on foreigners. The attacks have stoked a fierce debate in Germany about how to integrate the almost 1.1 million asylum-seekers who arrived last year.

In the poll published Friday, 66 percent of the 1,203 respondents said Germany can't handle the migrant influx, up from 46 percent in December. The percentage who thought the country could manage so many refugees fell from 51 percent in December to 37 percent during the Jan. 12-14 poll conducted for public broadcaster ZDF.

The share of Germans who believe crime will increase rose to 70 percent, compared with 62 percent the last time the question was asked in October. The margin of error was plus or minus 3 points.

The poll also showed that Chancellor Angela Merkel's popularity had declined somewhat compared with the previous month.

The assaults in Cologne appear to have contributed to the shift in opinion for some. A third of the respondents said their attitude toward asylum-seekers and refugee issues had changed due to the attacks, which have dominated media coverage in Germany this month. But the majority, 66 percent, said it hadn't changed their opinion.

A spokesman for Cologne's prosecutors said authorities are still receiving more criminal complaints in relation to the New Year's attacks. Police have said the perpetrators were among about 1,000 drunken men primarily of "Arab or North African origin," some of whom were asylum-seekers.

A total of 751 people have filed 676 criminal complaints, including 347 allegations of sexual assault, said spokesman Ulrich Bremer.

 

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