Athens: Twenty two undocumented migrants, among them four children and 12 women, drowned and a dozen were missing on Monday after an overloaded sail boat capsized off the eastern Aegean Sea island of Samos, authorities said.
A total of 36 migrants were rescued and transferred to safety on the island, and a four-year-old boy suffering from hyperthermia was later airlifted to Athens and was hospitalised in serious condition, Xinhua quoted the Greek Coast Guard as saying in a statement.
A rescue operation was launched as survivors told local authorities that there were 60-65 people on board the Sierra-Leone flagged King Helsinki yacht when it overturned off the northern coast of Samos before dawn amid good weather conditions.
Most bodies were discovered trapped inside the overturned 12-metre boat once it was towed to the nearest port, along with a smaller dinghy boat which was attached to it.
Survivors said that most people on board were of Somali origin and had left Turkey trying to illegally enter European Union through Greece, according to the media.
An investigation is underway to determine the cause of the tragedy. "On behalf of the political leadership of the shipping ministry and the leadership of the Coast Guard we express deep condolences to the families of victims," the Coast Guard said.
Thousands of migrants seek to enter illegally the European Union via Greece each year, and hundreds perish in such tragedies in the Aegean Sea.
Greek Left opposition parties said that the latest tragedy highlights the lack of an efficient migration policy by the EU.
During the past weekend in a joint rescue operation with Malta, Greek Coast Guard saved 147 migrants who were on board a vessel in the Mediterranean Sea.