BELGRADE (Reuters) – Six migrants were missing and are presumed dead after a boat in which they were trying to cross into Croatia capsized and sunk in the river Danube in Serbia’s north, a government official told Reuters on Monday.
According to the source, two groups of migrants in two boats attempted to cross the Danube near Serbia’s northern village of Karavukovo and enter Croatia which is a European Union member state.
“There were two families from Iraq and Syria in one boat, two children and four adults, it was their boat that capsized, we are fearing the worse,” said a government official who asked not to be named. “The police are investigating.”
In winter months, the Danube river in the Karavukovo area, just outside Croatia, is swollen and only a handful of local fishermen dare to navigate it in small boats.
“The remaining nine migrants from the second boat are in a local police station (in Serbia) where they are being debriefed.”
Serbia was a focal point for migrants in 2016, when hundreds of thousands fleeing wars and poverty in the Middle East and Asia traveled up through the Balkans to reach wealthy Western Europe.
“What happened is horrible and with deepest regret we can say that so far this year over 20 migrants died while attempting to cross the (Serbian) border,” the press office of Serbia’s Commissariat for Refugees said.
Although the Balkan route was closed off in 2016, there are currently over 6,000 migrants in Serbia’s government-operated camps.
Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Ed Osmond