ATHENS, Greece (AP) — At least 45 people, including 17 children, drowned Friday in the Aegean Sea as two smuggling boats sunk off different Greek islands. A search-and-rescue operation was underway for others feared trapped in the wreckage.
The Greek coast guard and other boats saved more than 70 people from the sunken vessels.
The new drownings follow hundreds over the past year as Europe faces its worst immigration crisis since the end of World War II. More than a million people seeking asylum have entered the continent in 2015 — most through Greece, coming across the sea in small smugglers’ boats from Turkey.
The European Union is deeply divided on addressing the influx, with several countries blocking or restricting migrant from entering and resisting plans to share the burden of refugees. In the meantime, Germany — where most immigrants are heading — has welcomed those it considers refugees.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said Friday the 28-nation bloc faces big economic risks if its member countries start putting up walls between each other, due to the refugee crisis, that restrict borderless travel.