Asylum-seekers in a town in Switzerland are being banned from using certain public spaces such as playgrounds and swimming pools, reports say.
There are 32 exclusion zones in total.
They were created after the European country opened the first of nine new asylum-seeker reception centres in the village of Bremgarten, 20km from the city of Zurich, which has a population of 6,500.
To introduce a blatantly discriminatory policy that effectively segregates asylum seekers from the communities in which they live is shocking
Mario Gattiker, head of Switzerland’s Migration Ministry, said that the curbs were implemented to avoid “friction and resentment” from locals.
Human-rights groups said they were shocked at the moves, which they described as racist.
“For Switzerland, the home of the United Nations and its refugee agency, to introduce a blatantly discriminatory policy that effectively segregates asylum seekers from the communities in which they live is shocking,” Gerry Simpson, senior refugee researcher for Human Rights Watch, said on Thursday.
“The Swiss authorities should encourage all Swiss communities to treat some of the world’s most vulnerable people with respect and dignity, rather than reinforcing prejudice and division.”
According to the group, Gattiker said that under the rules in Bremgarten, an asylum-seeker wishing to use school or local sports facilities on weekdays should “ask the private security company running the residential center to ask local community representatives for permission”.
Local community representatives are entitled to refuse simply on the basis of the person’s asylum-seeker status.
By the end of 2012. there were just over 50,000 recognised refugees, as well as almost 22,000 registered asylum-seekers in Switzerland, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
In June, the Swiss held a referendum on a government move to tighten the country’s asylum law amid a spike in refugees.