Migrant Crisis: New Maritime Migrant Route Opens on Black Sea

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Romanian authorities warn that a fourth migrant route could be opening along the Black Sea after the country experienced a five-fold increase in landings on last year.

The warning comes after 69 Iraqi migrants in a yacht were detained on Sunday after being spotted by a coastguard patrol ship in Romanian territorial waters, about 10 nautical miles from the port of Mangalia.

Bulgarian news agency Novinite reports that the yacht was sailing under the Turkish flag piloted by Bulgarian and Cypriot traffickers.

Romanian authorities note that 2,500 people have been caught trying to cross the country’s borders illegally in the first six months of this year – a five-fold increase on last year. Frontex figures show that only one person attempted to illegally enter the European Union via the Black Sea in the whole of 2016.

The growth of the route is a result of the restrictions on other routes in the Mediterranean.

The Eastern Mediterranean route (between Turkey and Greece across the Aegean Sea) was restricted last year following the EU-Turkey migrant deal. The Balkan route, which then took migrants out of EU nation Greece through Macedonia and Serbia (both non-EU countries) before re-entering the EU’s free movement Schengen zone in Hungary, was closed after Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán erected a border wall with Serbia and increased other security measures.

The Central Mediterranean migrant route has also recently been restricted following moves by the Libyan navy to patrol its coast and the Italian government’s implementation of a migrant rescue NGO code of conduct. The moves saw at least three NGOs pull search and rescue operations from the waters off the coast of North Africa over the weekend.

Captain Georgi Penev, chief of staff of the Bulgarian navy, told The Times: “Migration [into Bulgaria] is mostly coming through the land border [from Turkey] at the moment.”

“But we could see an increase on the sea route because of the crackdown in the Aegean,” Capt. Penev added.

In addition to sea and land incursions into Bulgaria and Romania, which both border the Black Sea, Spain, on the Western Mediterranean route from Morocco, is becoming the fastest growing route for illegal migration as migrants consider it “safer” than the central route from Libya.

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