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Asylum Seekers 'Banned From Swimming Pools, Libraries, Churches & Playgrounds By Swiss Authorities'

14/08/2013 09:38 BST | Updated 13/10/2013 10:12 BST

Local authorities in the Swiss town of Bremgarten have introduced restrictions barring asylum seekers from public areas including libraries, swimming pools, churches and playgrounds.

It comes after a new centre for refugees opened in the town, which is west of Zurich.

There are a total of 32 “exclusion zones” drawn up, with the town’s mayor Raymond Tellenbach, telling German broadcaster ARD: "We have decided on security grounds not to allow access to these areas, to prevent conflict and guard against possible drug use."

switzerland asylum

Immigrants bring their belongings into a van in front of the Prediger Church in Zurich, Switzerland

Urs von Däniken, of the Swiss Office for Migration (BfM), told the channel: "These are sensitive areas which have been marked out in the interests of peaceful coexistence between society and asylum seekers."

The Swiss Refugee Council has described the restrictions as “indefensible in both legal and humanitarian terms”, Der Spiegel reports.

Following media coverage of the matter, the BfM has insisted the restrictions do not amount to “exclusion zones”, telling the newspaper “even accompanied visits” are possible if they have been approved by the shelter and the municipality.

BfM Mario Gattiker claims the measures are to prevent “50 asylum seekers visiting a football pitch or swimming pool all at once”, because it may lead to “friction and resentment”.

He added the rules were designed “to accommodate public concern”.

According to The Telegraph however, church authorities have insisted that the church should be "open to all people".

Human rights group Solidarité Sans Frontières has described the restrictions as “blatantly discriminatory.”

However Roman Staub, the mayor of the nearby town of Menzingen said he fully supported banning asylum-seekers from the vicinity of schools.

“This is certainly a very difficult area, because here asylum-seekers could meet our schoolchildren – young girls our young boys," The Independent quotes him as saying.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has voiced concern over the measures.

In a statement published in OpEdNews, it said: "In order to encourage a welcoming environment for people who are uprooted and often vulnerable, it is important to reinforce public messages which aim at avoiding the risk of stigmatisation of asylum-seekers and also at promoting refugees integration. In many cases we are talking about children, women, men who fled from war and persecution and wish as much as possible to go back to a normal life."

The UNHCR states there were 21,709 asylum seekers in the country as of January 2013.