Berlin preps for a women's 'safety' zone during New Year's Eve celebration

Women-only 'safe zones' to be introduced for New Year's Eve in Berlin

Women-only safe zones to be introduced for New Year’s Eve in Berlin

Out of fear for a replay of what happened two years ago in the city of Cologne when groups of migrant men abused dozens of German women celebrating the arrival of the new year, the city of Berlin has made a decision to create "safe zones" for women at the New Year's celebration at Brandenburg Gate.

The move has been the subject of debate, with the chairman of Germany's police union, Rainer Wendt, arguing that the establishment of a zone implies the existence of secure and insecure areas.

Two years ago, Germany was rocked by what appeared to be a co-ordinated sexual attack on New Year's Eve.

The safe zone will be staffed by the German Red Cross, Berlin Police confirmed this week.

"[Assaulted women] can stay here and calm down or speak to someone trained to offer psychological support", Anja Marx, the spokeswoman of Berlin's main New Year's Eve celebrations, told the Washington Post.

Experts note that migrants in general aren't more likely to commit crimes than German citizens, but the proportion of crimes they commit may increase as they start to make up a larger share of the population.

The Cologne incident prompted a bill that makes it easier to prosecute sexual assaults and can see foreigners deported more easily if they are convicted of such crimes.

The number of rapes and sexual assaults recorded in Germany past year rose 12.8 per cent compared to 2015.

Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend the New Year's Eve party in Berlin on Sunday and security will be strict.

But a spokeswoman for the force said it merely suggested the safe zone following positive experiences at the Munich Oktoberfest, which has always been plagued by drink-fueled assaults.

And that if women want to report a crime, officers would be available to take their statements.

A spokesperson for the event told The Guardian that the "safety zone" would have psychologists on hand to provide counselling for distressed women.

Last year in Berlin, 14 women had filed a complaint at the New Year's Eve party in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Other security measures planned for this year's event include concrete bollards and barricades, with large bags prohibited and visitor numbers strictly controlled.

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