Greece's coast guard has raised the death toll from a migrant boat sinking Thursday to 25, after recovering seven more bodies from the sea off the northern coast of Samos, an island near the Turkish coast. Ten of the dead are children.
The coast guard said the bodies of five girls, five boys, 10 men and five women have been recovered, while 10 people had been rescued.
A search and rescue operation is continuing in the area, the coast guard said. Survivors' accounts of how many people had been on board were unclear, and authorities are uncertain of how many more people might be missing.
The passengers had been travelling in a wooden boat that partially sank. The exact circumstances of the incident were unclear.
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The coast guard said five of the rescued were found clinging to a piece of floating wood, leading authorities to believe they had been in a wooden vessel that sank. The survivors were in shock and unable to provide clear accounts of what happened or how many people had been on board.
Another boat sank off the island of Kos on Wednesday, leaving seven dead, including two children. Only two people were rescued from that incident.
Despite toughening European border controls, refugees and migrants have continued to travel to the Greek islands near the Turkish coast, at a rate of roughly 1,500 per day since the beginning of the year, braving the bad weather in dinghies and old wooden boats. Greece is the main gateway into Europe for refugees and migrants, and hundreds have died attempting to make the short but dangerous crossing in unseaworthy, overcrowded vessels.
Some European countries have accused Greece of not doing enough to stem the flow of people. Athens retorts that it is both illegal and dangerous to attempt to turn back potential asylum-seekers at sea, and trying to do so would inevitably lead to yet more deaths. It also says it has asked for more help from other EU countries in the form of staff and equipment from Frontex, but has received far less than it needs.
Rescue at sea
Also Thursday, Romanian border police said they have rescued 119 asylum-seekers from Africa who were on an inflatable dingy in the Mediterranean, trying to reach Europe.
A statement said the police who were aboard the Stefan cel Mare ship, picked up the migrants, all men and 34 of them children, on Tuesday evening, due to dangerous conditions including low temperatures and overcrowding on their vessel.
The migrants were dehydrated and had signs of hypothermia. They came from Gambia, Senegal, Liberia, Mali, Sierre Leona and Guinea Bissau and were planning to travel to the Schengen area.
The Romanian ship docked Wednesday evening near the port of Lampedusa where the migrants were handed over to Italian authorities.