New Year’s Eve celebrations in central Berlin will include a women’s safe zone for the first time, in the hope of preventing a repeat of mob attacks on female revellers during festivities in Cologne two years ago.
Up to a million guests are expected to attend the open-air event taking place around Berlin’s iconic Brandenburg Gate, featuring fireworks and pop acts such as Rednex and Whigfield this year.
The women’s safety area is being established at the request of Berlin police. The tent will be set up near a plaza adjacent to the landmark tourist attraction, and manned by German Red Cross representatives.
“There will be three to four (German Red Cross) helpers who are specially trained and can look after women who feel harassed or threatened,” a spokesperson for the celebrations, Anja Marx, told German national broadcaster rbb.
A police spokesperson told The Telegraph that patrolling authorities planned to check in regularly with staff at the women’s safety tent and tend to instances of criminal offence.
Hundreds of women reported sexual attacks and robberies by men outside the main train station at Cologne’s public New Year’s Eve gathering in 2016, where law enforcement was heavily outnumbered by dense crowds.
Suspects were largely of North African and Arab background. The incident happened after Germany had accepted a record influx of more than one million migrants in 2015, mostly people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere.
A leaked police report concluded that more than 1,200 women were sexually assaulted in various German cities at the 2015/2016 New Year’s celebrations. More than 2,000 men were allegedly involved and around 120 suspects were identified, the bulk of which being foreign nationals who were also new arrivals to Germany.
Cologne officials set up a security point for its 2016 carnival street festival following the attacks, and took security measures such as installing additional street lighting. Herbert Reul, interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia, the state where Cologne is located, told German news agency DPA that authorities had “done everything” this year to ensure that the events of 2015/2016 would not occur again.
In Berlin, strict safety precautions, including the banning of large bags, rucksacks, glass bottles and alcoholic beverages, will also be enforced. About 500 security personnel will be on the premises, as well as some 1,600 extra police officers deployed throughout the city.