At least 23 dead, dozens missing after two migrant boats sink near Greece

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By Euronews  with AP, AFP
Helicopters and coast guard boats are involved in the search and rescue operations.
Helicopters and coast guard boats are involved in the search and rescue operations.   -  Copyright  Hellenic Coast Guard

At least 23 people have died and dozens more are missing after two migrant boats sank in the Aegean Sea in separate incidents.

Greek authorities had launched a major search operation near the islands of Evia and Andros after a migrant dinghy in stormy weather overnight on Monday.

A total of 22 dead bodies -- including five children -- were recovered near Evia, the coast guard said on Wednesday. More than 30 others are missing and presumed dead.

The coast guard had earlier said that nine people had been found on an uninhabited rocky islet in the Kafirea Straits between the two islands.

Three more people were found alive on Wednesday.

The survivors have told authorities there had been around 68 people had been on board the boat when it set sail from Izmir on the Turkish coast.

Authorities said in a statement were initially alerted by a distress call early on Tuesday morning. A helicopter, a coast guard patrol boat, and two nearby ships were participating in the rescue operation.

Meanwhile, a separate search is also ongoing off the coast of the Greek island of Samos for seven people reported missing.

Four survivors -- all Palestinians -- were rescued on Monday after an inflatable dinghy carrying migrants overturned in the eastern Aegean Sea. Authorities later recovered one dead body.

A coast guard aircraft and patrol boat, two nearby ships, and a vessel from the European border patrol agency Frontex were participating in the search, authorities said in a separate statement.

Thousands of migrants attempt to enter the European Union through Greece each year from the Turkish coast.

Earlier this month, at least 27 people drowned in two separate incidents while trying to make the often perilous crossing. 

The International Organization for Migration (IOM) says that at least 5,684 migrants had died trying to reach Europe since the start of 2021.

Greek Shipping Minister Giannis Plakiotakis has accused Turkey of failing to deal with "ruthless smuggling rings sending people to their deaths".

Ankara has long accused Athens of illegal migrant pushbacks -- an allegation that Greece has denied.