German town reopens pool to male asylum seekers after gender education drive

A public indoor swimming pool in Bornheim, Germany on Jan 16, 2016.
A public indoor swimming pool in Bornheim, Germany on Jan 16, 2016.PHOTO: REUTERS

BERLIN (Reuters) - A German town said on Monday (Jan 18) it would reopen its public indoor swimming pool to male asylum seekers after talking to migrants about the need to treat women with respect.

Bornheim, a small town 30km south of Cologne, banned the men last week after receiving complaints of sexual harassment at the pool, saying it was not prepared to see German cultural norms compromised.

It was the latest sign of social tensions caused by the arrival of 1.1 million migrants in Germany last year, followed by a wave of sexual assaults on women by gangs of young male refugees during New Year's Eve celebrations in Cologne.

The ban will be lifted on Wednesday, the town said in a press release. "The cancellation is not the result of pressure from the media's response, but rather follows intensive discussions with refugees on how they should treat women with respect, regardless of whether they have a migration background or not," it said.

Bornheim said last week it wanted social workers to teach asylum seekers at three shelters about gender equality and respect for women.

The New Year's Eve attacks deepened public doubts about Germany's ability to integrate the mainly Muslim and Arab refugees, mostly fleeing war in the Middle East, whom Chancellor Angela Merkel has opted to allow in.

Police investigations into the New Year's Eve incidents are focusing on asylum seekers and illegal migrants thought to be mostly from North Africa.