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Drive-in sex booths proposed for Berlin's historic Tempelhof airport


Berlin's former Tempelhof airport has been proposed as a site for regulated sex booths, in a bid to protect the city's sex workers.

(CNN)Berlin's former Tempelhof airport has witnessed some major events in its time -- a Nazi airfield during World War II, it was the site of the Berlin airlift during the Cold War, and most recently an emergency shelter for refugees fleeing Syria.

In 2008, it was taken out of service and transformed into a gigantic park, and Berliners can now be seen rollerblading down its former runways on summer evenings.

But the airfield may soon take on less wholesome role, if one local politician gets his way.

The mayor of Berlin's central Mitte district has proposed installing "Verichtungsboxen" -- booths where prostitutes can meet clients -- in the airport site, a bid to improve the safety of the city's sex workers. These include drive-in booths, where customers can meet sex workers in their own vehicles.

Stephan von Dassel, the mayor who represents the Green party, is attempting to combat prostitution on Kurfürstenstrasse, an upmarket street in Mitte with a history of sex workers.

These drive-in booths in the German city of Cologne were introduced in 2001.

These drive-in booths in the German city of Cologne were introduced in 2001.

"Residents and businesses have been calling for a ban on street prostitution for many years," he wrote in a statement. Yet he notes that the Berlin Senate has refused to implement regulatory restrictions "because it fears a deterioration of the overall situation."

He is now proposing a restriction on street prostitution in the district, instead offering sex workers booths in controlled areas in a bid, he says, to improve the lives of "residents and sex workers" alike.

Dassel, who has spent two years looking into the issue on Kurfürstenstrasse, warns that unregulated street prostitution is leading to men "seeking sexual services at such a low price" that prostitutes are having to engage in sexual services as a "bulk business in order to earn a basic income."

He says only a minority of sex workers on the street are receiving health advice and have been registered as sex workers; the number of places where sex workers can engage in sexual acts in private is diminishing; and the visibility of pimps is having a "negative impact on the safety of residents," he says.

While some politicians in Berlin have proposed installing the booths under a U-Bahn railway bridge near Kurfürstenstrasse, Dassel wants to put them further afield, for example in the Zentraler Festplatz, an open-air fairground in the district of Wedding, or in the former Tempelhof airport in Kreuzberg.

Sarah Tiba, a Berlin resident who lives in central Mitte, told CNN that prostitution has "always been integrated in Berlin life."

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