At least 16 people are dead, including at least 5 children, after the boat they were in capsized and sank.
The incident happened early Saturday off the coast of Greece, near the island of Agathonisi. It appears those who died may have been fleeing from Turkey, in an effort to escape ISIS-led violence in Syria.
Many of those families are Christians fleeing ISIS and the oppressive rule of radical Muslim leader Bashir al-Assad, and cross over the border into Turkey. From there, they take boats across the Aegean Sea to Greece, where they are often taken in.
Sixteen people, including at least five children, drowned on Saturday when the small boat they on capsized in the Aegean Sea, Greek coast guard officials said.
The incident occurred off Greece’s Agathonisi island, which is close to the Turkish coast. The nationality of the victims was not immediately known.
Saturday’s incident was thought to be the highest death toll of migrants trying to reach outlying Greek islands for months.
Greek authorities said they believed there were 22 people on the boat. Greek coast guard vessels assisted by helicopters were searching for survivors.
Authorities have made efforts to ensure that those coming to Greece by sea make it there safely.
“We can’t tolerate (losing) children in the Aegean Sea … the solution is to protect people, to implement safe procedures and safe routes for migrants and refugees, to hit the human trafficking circuits,” Greek migration minister Dimitris Vitsas said in a press release.
Hundreds of thousands of refugees and migrants arrived in Greece and further west in 2015 from Turkey, making the short but precarious crossing. Hundreds died in the attempt.
Following a 2016 agreement between the European Union and Turkey, the numbers have diminished.
Under that deal, anyone who arrives on Greek islands must be returned to Turkey unless they qualify for asylum. But procedures can take several months, leading to overcrowded conditions on the islands.