Smugglers begin to use a Black Sea route more actively

A new migration route to Europe is seeing the day - the crossing via the Black Sea, north of Turkey. In less than a month, 500 migrants have been intercepted in Romanian waters in their desperate attempts to reach the European mainland. Human rights activists are trying to warn of the perils involved in the dangerous crossing.

According to the Head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Romania Mircea Mocanu, the Black Sea migrant route is not new, however, In 2014, almost 430 migrants took it, and so far in 2017, 482 people have taken it. Mostly Iraqis and Iranians. He hopes that the numbers will stay low. Asked about the cost of crossing the Black Sea, he gave an estimate of between 1,000 and 3,000 euros.

Aside from the Black Sea being extremely dangerous to cross, the makeshift boats the migrants travel in are also easily spotted in the waters by border guards.

Another hurdle is the fact that Romania isnt part of Schengen an agreement which stipulates passport-free movement between some European countries. Instead, Romania has set up passport controls on its borders, automatically stopping and checking migrants who try to make their way to other European countries.

According to the Romanian border police, more than 1,200 migrants have been arrested since the beginning of 2017 in their attempts to reach the border separating Hungary from the rest of Europe. Last year, 900 migrants were arrested. The IOM estimates that around 80 percent of all attempts fail.

And attempting to reach Serbia is just as futile. Barbed-wire fences now separate Serbia and Hungary, making it an almost impossible border to cross.

Frontex, the European border guard agency, remains on alert but says its too early to tell to which extent the migrant routes to Europe are changing. But what is happening seems to indicate that smugglers are trying to activate a route via the Black Sea, agency spokesman Krzysztof Borowski says.

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