Friday's was the third rescue operation in three days in the Aegean involving Turkish traffickers. File Photo by Maritime Enforcement Agency/EPA-EFE
Dec. 25 (UPI) -- At least 16 asylum-seekers died when a smuggling boat carrying them in the Aegean Sea capsized on Friday, Greek military officials said.
A large-scale search on Saturday involving 15 ships and several aircraft yielded the discovery of more drowning victims near the Greek island of Paros after 13 deaths were initially reported on Friday, the Hellenic Coast Guard said in a statement.
Sixty-three migrants have been rescued so far after the small, overcrowded sailboat carrying about 80 people capsized, the Coast Guard said.
Some of the survivors were transferred to a hospital in Paros and others were taken to a hotel. The boat was towed to a port as part of an investigation by the Paros Port Authority.
Most of the migrants from Friday's accident are Syrians, Palestinians and Afghans who paid $9,000 each to be smuggled from Turkey to Italy, Parianos Typos reported.
Friday's was the third search-and-rescue operation in three days in the Aegean involving Turkish traffickers.
At least 11 migrants were found dead Friday after their boat sank off the Greek coast while another 90 were rescued. One migrant died and dozens others were reported missing after a boat carrying refugees capsized off the Greek coast Wednesday.
"I express my deepest sorrow for the loss of those who lost their lives, victims of ruthless murderers who are left to act uncontrollably in Turkey," Greek Shipping Minister Giannis Plakiotakis said in a statement.
"Greece will continue to save lives that others are endangering in the Aegean and the Eastern Mediterranean," he said, noting that authorities have carried out more than 1,400 rescue operations.
"Condemnation of the traffickers, but also of those who allow or facilitate their actions, is imperative and self-evident, and we expect the additional mobilization of the international community," Plakiotakis said.