Thirteen migrants, including six children, drown off Greece: coastguard

 Refugees and migrants arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey by boat, on Oct 31, 2015.
Refugees and migrants arriving on the Greek island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean Sea from Turkey by boat, on Oct 31, 2015.PHOTO: AFP

ATHENS (AFP) - At least 13 migrants, six of them children, drowned as two boats making the hazardous crossing from Turkey capsized in the Aegean Sea off Greece on Sunday, the coastguard said.

The first tragedy occurred off the island of Samos when a boat overturned just 20m from shore.

Ten bodies - including six children, four of them babies - were found in the vessel's cabin while that of a girl was washed up on the island, where dozens of refugees have perished trying to reach Europe in recent days.

Two others were still missing with coastguard personnel saying 15 were plucked from the water.

A boat from the European border agency Frontex also recovered two bodies near the island of Farmakonnisi, near Samos, the coastguard said.

Frontex also rescued three others, who said their boat was carrying 15 people when it sank in Turkish waters.

Greek authorities and the Turkish coastguard "continue to search the zone to find the migrants who disappeared in the sinking, which probably took place off the Turkish coast," a representative of the Greek coastguard's press office told AFP.

The new sinkings add to a string of migrant boat tragedies since Monday off the Greek islands of Lesbos, Kalymnos and Rhodes, in which more than 60 people have drowned, at least 28 of them children.

On Friday alone, 22 people, including 17 children, lost their lives trying to cross to the eastern Aegean islands from Turkey, to which more than two million Syrian refugees have fled.

That followed another black day on Wednesday when 24 migrants - 11 of them children - died in five shipwrecks off Lesbos, Samos and Agathonisi.

With the arrival of rough winter weather, and fears that Europe is about to close its doors to refugees, more than 80 people - most of them children - have drowned trying to reach Greece in October, according to an AFP count.

Since the beginning of the year, 580,125 migrants have landed on Greece's shores, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, with a total of 723,221 crossing the Mediterranean to Europe.

Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Friday that the drownings were a "humanitarian tragedy" and a "shame" for Europe.

He is to travel to Lesbos this week with the European parliament President Martin Schultz, his office said.