Berlin trials new ‘call for help’ app for bathers to combat rise in migrant sexual assault at swimming pools

As well as the new app, ID requirements, increased security, and bag checks will remain in force at Berlin's swimming complexes this summer season

By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

Outdoor swimming pools in Berlin will trial a new “call for help” app this summer to combat the increasing number of fights, sexual crimes, and attacks on employees that plagued the complexes last summer.

As reported by the Berliner Morgenpost, the app will enable guests to alert on-site guards to incidents and facilitate swifter intervention in a bid to boost the feeling of security at the pools.

Riots have erupted at Berlin’s outdoor swimming pools in recent years including at the Berlin Columbiabad in the borough of Neukölln last July, which led to the site being closed due to staff shortages after too many employees left due to stress.

Staff penned a letter to a leading German newspaper complaining about “mainly Arab migrants and Chechens” who were engaging in sexual harassment of women and mass brawls on the premises while also leaving the complexes in disgusting conditions.

“Violence against pool staff is everywhere,” reported Peter Harzheim, president of the Federal Association of German Pool Attendants (BDS), last year after multiple incidents at complexes across the German capital.

The local government was forced to introduce measures to address the problem and made the presentation of ID documents upon entering the outdoor swimming pools mandatory — a measure that will remain in force.

To enter a pool this summer, bathers must show their identity card, driver’s license, or some other form of photographic identification.

Security cameras, an increased police presence, and bag checks are also all expected to continue to deter troublemakers.

A total of 153 bans were imposed on unruly visitors to outdoor pools last summer, a figure that doesn’t tell the whole story, with enforcement against the multitude of high-profile incidents rare and subsequent criminal convictions even rarer.

The ID requirements were also often counter-intuitive, as families and tourists unaware of the new rules were refused entry to the complexes because they didn’t have ID on them.

Swimming pools in Berlin are now expected to shell out up to €2 million every summer season on bolstered security from private companies, with up to 170 guards due to be on-site during popular hot weekends — a new expenditure that will only result in admission prices going up and making the facilities less accessible for working-class Germans.

The issue isn’t an isolated case in Berlin, with many other towns and cities across Germany and neighboring Belgium and the Netherlands experiencing the same issue.

The De Vliegende Vaart open-air swimming pool in Terneuzen, located in the Dutch Zeeland province close to the Belgian border, also introduced draconian ID requirements last summer to combat crime and public order offenses committed by the number of Belgian Moroccans crossing the border to frequent the facilities.

Sexual harassment by migrants within pool areas received much publicity in February this year after leading Dutch conservative politician Geert Wilders demanded the deportation of an asylum seeker for sexually assaulting four 11-year-old girls at a swimming pool resort in Zandvoort.

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