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Swimming pool turns away Syrian asylum seekers

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File photo of a swimming pool. Photo: Dushan Hanuska/Flickr
17:03 CET+01:00
A swimming pool in Lucerne is facing complaints of discrimination after placing a limit on the number of asylum seekers allowed in the pool at any one time.

Yannick Hagmann, a 35-year-old who volunteers with asylum seekers, told Sonntags Blick that he took some Syrians to the pool in Meggen at the weekend, but the group were refused entry by staff.

Despite the pool being open, Hagmann says a lifeguard prevented them from entering. "He held a note from the parish under our noses which said that no more than three asylum seekers may use the pool at the same time," Hagmann told the newspaper.

The regulation - which also only allows asylum seekers access on two days each week - had in fact been in effect for three weeks before Hagmann's visit. The municipality stated the reason as "the size of the pool and the very limited space available".

Hagmann admits that at eight by 20 metres, the pool is relatively small. However, he likened the regulation to "the apartheid regime", saying: "It cannot be that a particular group of the population is excluded."

A law professor at Basel University, Markus Schefer, told 20 Minuten that the limit "contravenes the ban on discrimination in the Swiss Constitution and so could be illegal". He added that although limits can be placed on occupancy for safety reasons, "these should apply to everyone and not just asylum seekers".

Although the Swiss Constitution does not allow discrimination, the pool has been labelled a "sensitive zone" because it is within school grounds, meaning that special conditions may be applied.

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It's not the first time that swimming pools in Europe have caused a stir for preventing access to migrants. In January, a German town banned male asylum seekers from public swimming pools after complaints from women that they were being harassed by migrants.

And one month before that, France’s leading legal rights body was called in to investigate after it emerged that a swimming pool in Calais, where 4,500 refugees are camped out, had effectively banned them from entering by introducing ID checks.

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