Romanian authorities said Monday that they had caught a fishing boat with 68 asylum seekers off Romania’s coast, the second such incident in a week, raising fears that a new migrant route to Europe is opening up.
The boat carrying Iraqis and Syrians, including 23 children, was intercepted late Sunday in the Black Sea in Romania’s southeastern Constanta region, officials said.
“They were accompanied by two Turkish traffickers,” Ionela Pasat, a spokeswoman for the Constanta coastguard, told AFP.
The group was brought to the port of Mangalia for medical examinations on Monday before being handed over to the immigration authorities, she said.
On August 13, coastguards discovered a boat with 69 Iraqi migrants in Romanian waters. One Bulgarian and one Cypriot were taken into custody on suspicion of human trafficking.
EU member Romania, which is not part of the bloc’s passport-free Schengen zone, has largely been spared the continent’s worst migration crisis since World War II.
But Bucharest worries that the Black Sea could become an alternative route to the dangerous Mediterranean crossing.
More than 111,000 migrants have reached Europe by sea so far this year, most of them arriving in Italy from Libya, according to the most recent figures.
Over 2,300 have died attempting the crossing.
This month, NGO rescue ships were banned from patrolling waters off Libya where hundreds of thousands of people have been rescued in recent years and brought to Italy.
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