A Belgian mayor said he would propose banning male refugees from a swimming pool for a month on Monday after complaints from female bathers, earning a swift rebuke from the migration minister who said it would be ill-advised.

The proposal underlined an increasingly highly-charged debate over immigration in Europe, particularly since authorities in neighboring Germany accused gangs of migrants of sexually assaulting women in Cologne on New Year's Eve.

"We had women complain because they felt stared at and selfies had been taken with them. It's escalating. We never had any complaints before," said Marc Vanden Bussche, mayor of the coastal town of Kokzijde.

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