Lucky to be alive, 153 migrants land in Romania yesterday after being rescued from an overcrowded boat that threatened to capsize in the Black Sea – the perilous new route into Europe.
The pre-dawn drama, in which 53 children were saved, fuelled fears that the crossing from Turkey to eastern Europe was becoming increasingly popular with unscrupulous North African traffickers.
At least 627 migrants have been caught in rickety vessels heading to Romania this year – almost ten times the number intercepted over the past two years.
Experts believe the total is soaring as other nations crack down on the routes migrants traditionally take across the Mediterranean to Italy and Greece.
Members of Romania's border police carry a baby, in the Black Sea port of Constanta, Romania, early on Wednesday morning, as others wait on a boat to be unloaded
More than 150 migrants from Iraq and Iran, of which were 53 children, from a ship in distress on the Black Sea, on what is becoming a new route for migrants trying to reach Western Europe
The Libyan coastguard has increased patrols of the Med and aid groups have suspended dangerous rescue missions.
But the Black Sea is more dangerous, with colder water, higher winds and stronger currents. In fact, until recently people smugglers rarely used the crossing, with just one person arriving last year.
Krzysztof Borowski, of Frontex, the EU border protection agency, said conditions in the Black Sea were often more hazardous than the Mediterranean, adding: ‘Migrants are in bigger danger, especially if they take smaller vessels. It is a rough sea and a difficult one to cross.’
Razvan Samoila, of the Romanian aid group Arca, said: ‘The Mediterranean is not like the Black Sea. In the Black Sea, you don’t know what will happen in 20 minutes. These migrants who took this route on the Black Sea must have experienced a very hard journey.’
Many of those rescued yesterday were Iraqi. They sent a distress signal when the sea suddenly became stormy, with gale-force winds churning up 10ft waves that could have capsized their vessel. Two Romanian coastguard boats towed the ship to the port of Midia, 150 miles east of Bucharest, shortly before dawn.
The Libyan coastguard has increased patrols of the Med and aid groups have