German cartoon swimming pool 'etiquette guide for migrants' pre-dates refugee crisis, officials say

Munich officials say the guides were in fact created in 2013 to address general concerns regarding antisocial behaviour

A cartoon “etiquette guide” supposedly created for migrants using swimming pools in Germany was in fact produced in 2013 and predates the current refugee crisis, Munich officials have said.

The images, showing a red cross over a hand reaching out to touch a woman in a bathing costume, have been circulating on social media and featured prominently in German media reports.

It came amid very real reports that local officials in the small town of Bornheim near Cologne had banned refugees from using a public pool, citing recent reports of sexual harassment and “chatting up”. The pool re-opened later after the measure was widely condemned.

But the cartoons themselves are at least two years old, and feature a broad range of guidelines for swimming pool use including messages of tolerance.

Rather than being produced in response to the spate of sex attacks on women on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, a Munich city spokeswoman told the DPA news agency the leaflets have been around since 2013, amid general concerns about anti-social behaviour across its 18 public pools.

“The ground rule of respect for women – whatever clothing they're wearing – is unfortunately not respected by all our swimmers. That's why there is an explicit indication about it,” the spokeswoman said.

Chancellor Angela Merkel is under increasing pressure to reduce the numbers of refugees reaching Germany and voters are growing doubtful that the state can tackle the crisis, her key ally and Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said on Monday.

Speaking at a panel in the western city of Duesseldorf, Schaeuble said it was "evident" that the pressure on Ms Merkel in the refugee crisis was bigger now than it was eight months ago.

Ms Merkel has promised to "measurably reduce" arrivals this year, but has refused to introduce a cap, saying it would be impossible to enforce without closing German borders.

Instead, she has tried to convince European partners to take on quotas of refugees, pushed for reception centres to be built on Europe's external borders, and led an EU campaign to convince Turkey to keep refugees from entering the bloc.

Additional reporting by agencies