As Germany gears up for the summer swimming season, the swimming authorities are facing touchy issues with the recently-arrived culture-enrichers who now frequent the pools. The two main problems with the “refugees” are their tendency to molest their fellow bathers, and their inability to swim.
Many thanks to Nash Montana for translating this article from Die Welt:
The Real Problem With Refugees in Swimming Pools
Again and again we see reports of sexual harassment and molestations perpetrated by refugees in swimming pools. The senior director of public swimming pools refers to individual incidents. He is bothered by a much different problem.
Individual reports of sexual harassment perpetrated by refugees in public swimming pools have caused some concern. But Berthold Schmitt, the senior director of German association for public swimming pools and baths (Deutsche Gesellschaft für das Badewesen e.V.), as well as the CEO of CologneBaths Inc, (KölnBäder GmbH), emphasizes that these are merely unfortunate isolated incidents.
He sees a much larger problem in the fact that in the more than 6000 nationwide indoor and outdoor swimming pools and school swimming pools, most of the refugees can’t swim. The author spoke with the 59-year-old chief of public swimming and baths in Cologne about the new challenges, especially in the light of the upcoming outdoor swimming season.
Die Welt: What problems do refugees have in swimming pools?
Berthold Schmitt: The “new citizens”, as we call them, have three main problems: They don’t speak German, they have no knowledge of our German or European bathing and swimming culture, and most of them do not know how to swim.
Die Welt: What are the consequences of that?
Schmitt: The lifeguards and lifesavers in all pools have never been in the water as often as in the past few months in order to help guests. Not all of them were close to drowning, but they needed help to get back to the edge of the pools. These are giants of men, as some of our employees tell us; they go to the edge of the pool. They see the bottom of the pool and they the think they can stand in it and they jump in. Two seconds later my employees have to jump after them and save them. That is a very prominent topic, because these refugees are completely overestimating themselves. That doesn’t mean we don’t have issues with sexual harassment or theft.
Die Welt: There were individual reports from multiple cities, Cologne included, where refugees were harassing women in pools. Do you know of any further incidents?
Schmitt: You are right. These are in fact individual incidents. We cannot determine whether there are any problems in Cologne with the 13,000 new citizens in public baths and pools. We know of one case in Cologne. That’s where a man was getting close to a girl. Our sensitized and trained employees on location reacted completely correct by alerting the police. All of the initial six suspects were arrested, but there was only one offender. That is terrible, but it is not a swimming-pool-specific problem. Our baths and pools are safe spaces, and we will see to that through several measures we have taken. The fact that one offender could immediately be caught proves that we as, the bath and pool operators, are fulfilling our duties in that regard.
Die Welt: What measures are you referring to?
Schmitt: For example, we have already thought about what we could do preventively. Our employees have for years been taking de-escalation training classes with the police, long before the refugees arrived. In Cologne we have asked our lifeguards and pool masters during a special workers meeting if there are bigger issues with the new citizens. They could confirm that there are no additional problems.
Die Welt: Shouldn’t there already be mention and preparation for proper behavior and the safety risks in pools in the various refugee homes?
Schmitt: We are of the opinion that the individual pool operators, if possible, should contact the social workers in the asylum homes. In Cologne we have done that. We bring with us the rules for behavior for safety in the pool, the same that also hang in the pools themselves, and they’re written in various languages — and the dress code as well. These rules for behavior were developed in collaboration with our association, and they can be printed via the internet. We have a huge stock of swimwear, which is being left behind in our facilities and hasn’t been retrieved. Some of them are brand-spanking new. The foremost need of the refugees is to have access to appropriate swimwear. This seems to be especially important in the light of the upcoming outdoor swim season this summer. Pool operators in bigger cities are all working in this direction. Our German association for public swimming pools and baths has also developed a “instructional concept in managing guests with low German language skills (refugees)”. We exchange our materials with each other and make them available for everybody. For instance, in Cologne right now we work on pictograms to represent certain situations more graphically. Concerning the lack of knowledge on how to swim, the new citizens can integrate themselves into the existing swimming lessons we offer. We do not offer a “refugee course” or “refugee swimming” per se, so that we can ensure their integration right from the start.