Syrian refugees stopped at unlikely route to Romania

DAILY SABAH WITH AFP
ISTANBUL
Published

Security forces intercepted 150 Syrian refugees who boarded a fishing boat to Romania from the Black Sea city of Kastamonu on a route probably used for the first time by migrants trying to reach Europe.

Villagers in Kastamonu's Cide district noticed the crowd who arrived in three buses to the coast and alerted authorities. Eighty-two migrants were nabbed on the shore while others were stopped by the Coast Guard. Doğan News Agency reported that the group snuck into Turkey from the country's lengthy border with Syria.

Kastamonu is some 1,500 kilometers (932 miles) east of Romania's Black Sea coast and has rarely been used by migrants who use Turkey as a gateway to Europe.

Romanian authorities said on Aug. 21 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 in Romania's southeastern Constanta region, officials said. "They were accompanied by two Turkish traffickers," Ionela Pasat, a spokeswoman for the Constanta coastguard, told Agence France-Presse (AFP). On Aug. 13, the coast guard 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, with most of them coming from sub-Saharan countries arriving in Italy from Libya, according to the most recent figures. Over 2,300 have died attempting the crossing.

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