Seven people, including five children, drowned when an inflatable dinghy on Friday morning capsized off the islet cluster of Oinousses in the eastern Aegean, the Greek daily Kathimerini reported.
The boat carrying 19 Turkish nationals who were fleeing Turkey capsized about eight kilometers (five miles) from the Turkish coast, near Greece’s Chios island.
The capsized vessel was spotted at 10.20 am by a vessel belonging to Frontex, the border monitoring agency of the European Union (EU).
Hellenic Coast Guard vessels first found the bodies of a baby and a four-year-old child in the area. Later, a diver discovered the bodies of another five, three children and two women.
Twelve people – five men, three women, three children under six and a 12-year-old – were rescued from the sea north of the islands.
Our hearts are broken to hear more tragic news from the Greek Aegean #islands. While a SAR operation is still ongoing after a shipwreck off Oinouses island earlier this morning, 2 children are reported dead and 4 people missing. Our team stands ready to support the survivors. pic.twitter.com/CySKzm5BwL
— UNHCR Greece (@UNHCRGreece) September 27, 2019
Patrol vessels and a Frontex aircraft were involved in the search-and-rescue operation.
The Greek coastguard did not provide details on the cause of the accident.
In August, more than 9,000 people arrived in Greece, the highest number in the three years since the implementation of a deal struck in 2016 between the EU and Ankara in a bid to reduce the number of migrants crossing through Turkey.
However, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently on a number of occasions threatened to open the country’s borders to Syrian migrants unless adequate international support for setting up the zone was provided.
So far in September, the number has exceeded 8,000 people.
According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 50 have died so far this year.
Following a failed coup attempt against Erdogan in 2016, Turks are also among those attempting to cross to Greece.
A group of soldiers, who allegedly have links to the Gulen Movement, tried to take over the country’s control during the coup bid in which more than 300 people were killed and more than 2,100 were injured.
Erdogan blamed the coup on Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim cleric who denies the accusations. Tens of thousands of people allegedly linked to the movement have been jailed.