Record numbers of migrants are dying in Germany’s rivers and lakes as they enter the waters despite being unable to swim, according to the country’s lifeguard association.
The German Life Saving Society (DLRG) says that more people have drowned in Germany so far this year than in the whole of 2015, with recently-arrived migrants making up a significant proportion of the victims.
In the first eight months of this year, 425 people drowned, of which 56 – more than 13 per cent – were migrants. This figure is highly disproportionate compared to the overall population.
“Our fears have come true,” said DLRG spokesman Martin Holzhause.
“Most of the refugees arrived towards the end of 2015. This makes the numbers for 2016 especially alarming.”
The DLRG has already classified migrants as being at “special risk” and has translated bathing safety advice in 25 languages while also producing pictograms for the illiterate.
Bertold Schmitt, who manages around 6,000 swimming pools across Germany, told Die Welt that migrants with poor swimming skills often think they can jump in at the deep end assuming they can stand up there.
“Two seconds later, my staff have to jump in after them. This is a very common issue because refugees overestimate their abilities.”
More than three-quarters of those who drowned are male, something that the DLRG puts down to overconfidence, carelessness and even alcohol consumption.
Swimming pools have become sites of conflict as Germany’s migrant crisis has grown. Newly arrived migrants have been accused of multiple sexual assaults at pools across the country, leading to one district even launching temporary tattoos for women with the word “NO!” in large writing.
Officials in Bodensee created the “No! Not Me!” campaign to provide a “temporary protection tattoo that you can apply onto your skin. lt means: ‘My body belongs to me!’”