In the wake of an unsettling incident last week which saw two large groups of migrant men do battle with one another at a public swimming pool in Berlin, the head of one of Germany’s largest swimming associations has warned parents against bringing their children to public pools this summer, citing safety concerns.
The brawl—which took place at Berlin’s Sommerbad am Insulaner, involved around a hundred young men, and resulted in a 10-year-old boy suffering a head injury—has prompted Peter Harzheim, the president of the Federal Association of German Swimming Champions (BDS), to speak frankly to parents, telling them that he can no longer in good conscience recommend that they bring their kids to public pools this summer, Junge Freiheit reports.
“I have three small grandchildren myself and if I went there with them, I would simply be acting irresponsibly,” Harzheim said while speaking to Bild TV.
“These pictures shake me. When I see that, I shudder,” Harzheim continued, adding: “These people that I see there have no respect for people. It can not go on like that. Pool operators need to be more active and choose their visitors better,” he added.
The BDS president then urged politicians and police to take action so that public pools can once again be safe for families, adding that the immigrant backgrounds of many of the perpetrators should not prevent the problem from being properly dealt with.
“It cannot be that the people who commit crimes there are released after two hours,” Harzheim said. “Politicians turn a blind eye to the problems and let us down.”
In the years that have followed the European Migrant Crisis of 2015-16, violent, anti-social behavior has become all too common during the summer months at Germany’s public pools, severely affecting the country’s century-old outdoor pool culture that developed through a social movement known as “Lebensreform,” which sought to promote a back-to-nature lifestyle during a time of unrestrained industrialization.
Incidents involving the sexual assault and harassment of young children have become disconcertingly usual.
In the summer of 2016, government officials in the town of Bornheim, in North Rhine-Westphalia, were forced to ban all-male asylum seekers from the municipality’s indoor pool due to repeated cases of sexual harassment and sexual assault carried out against female swimmers.
One year later, two military-aged male asylum seekers, including a former Islamic State member from Syria, were arrested for sexually assaulting two girls, aged 12 and 14 at a public swimming pool in the town of Bad Oldesloe, in the northern German state of Schleswig-Holstein.
The ongoing—and seemingly escalating—problem is not confined to Germany. In the summer of 2016, a 20-year-old Iraq asylum seeker, only months after coming to Austria via the Balkan Route, grabbed a 10-year-old boy at an indoor swimming pool in Vienna, pulled him into a toilet cubicle, locked the door, then sexually assaulted him. After being found guilty of aggravated sexual abuse and rape, the perpetrator was sentenced to just four years in prison.
Robert Semonsen is a political journalist based in Central Europe. His work has been featured in various English-language news outlets in Europe and the Americas. He has an educational background in biological and medical science. His Twitter handle is @R_Semonsen.