New Year's party sets up women-only 'safety zone'

A christmas tree is illuminated in front of Germany's landmark Brandenburg Gate
Credit Markus Schreiber AP

A christmas tree is illuminated in front of Germany's landmark Brandenburg Gate Credit Markus Schreiber AP

In order to avoid a repeat of the Cologne sex attacks, the Berlin government announced the creation of women-only spaces in the area near the Brandenburg Gate for New Year's Eve.

Up to 1 million guests are expected to attend the open-air event in Berlin, which will take place around the Brandenburg Gate and Victory Monument landmarks.

People demonstrate against racism and sexism in Cologne, Germany in the aftermath of a string of New Year's Eve sexual assaults and robberies on January 9, 2016.

A leaked report concluded that more than 1,200 women were assaulted across various German cities during the 2015/2016 New Year's celebrations.

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A spokesperson for the event told The Guardian that the "safety zone" would have psychologists on hand to provide counselling for distressed women. Other security measures planned for this year's event include concrete bollards and barricades, with large bags prohibited and visitor numbers strictly controlled.

The German Red Cross will staff Berlin's new safe zones and offer support to women who have been assaulted or feel unsafe. They can go to the celebrations with their wallet and smartphone, and that's about it.

In addition to creating safe zones, the police have also informed would be partygoers that they are not allowed to bring their own alcoholic drinks to the party at Brandenburg Gate, or even to carry a backpack with them. After having initially reported a "peaceful" night, Cologne police were slow to report the true extent of the carnage, and the politically charged fact that the hostile crowd was made up mostly of migrants. An extra 1600 officers will also be deployed throughout the city.

The assaults called into question the rise in refugees and migrants entering Germany in 2015 after fleeing violence in Syria and Iraq.

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