February 26, 2017

Racist? Swiss town bans refugees from swimming pools, recreational spaces “for security reasons”

The small beautiful town of Bremgarten in Switzerland offers a “hearty welcome” to all of its guests, except for the 50 asylum seekers living in its army barracks; those unlucky few are not welcome everywhere, the town’s officials announced last week.

Time Magazine reports that local authorities have determined that the asylum seekers won’t be allowed to move around freely or use local swimming pools or sports facilities.

They restrict refugees’ access to these places for “security reasons”, the town’s mayor Raymond Tellenbach explained in a television interview.

It is not clear how or if refugees caught in the no-go areas will be punished.

Mario Gattiker, the head of the Federal Office for Migration told a local newspaper that the restrictions are to “prevent a situation where 50 asylum seekers all want to use a football pitch or the pool at once, which could lead to friction and resentment” from the locals.

The asylum seekers are mostly from Africa and Asia and restricting them from certain places in the town has incited accusations of racism and segregation from some human rights groups, even as Switzerland is working to repair its image after an exclusive Zurich boutique last month allegedly refused to sell American media mogul Oprah Winfrey a $35,000 crocodile bag because she is black.

While the store owner denies it, the Switzerland tourist body offered an apology to Winfrey for the treatment.

Meanwhile, Swiss Justice Minister Simonetta Sommaruga, whose department oversees migration, has denied that Bremgarten is restricting the movement of its refugee residents.

“The basic rights, including the freedom of movement, are guaranteed for everybody,” she said. Despite her assurances, reports are now surfacing that suggest the practice of banning refugees from some common areas is common in Switzerland, which is receiving a growing number of asylum requests.

About 130 more refugees are expected to arrive in Bremgarten, the report said and more refugee centers will sprout up in small towns across the country.

Read the full story on Time Magazine.

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