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18, including 9 children, drown off the coast of Greece

A migrant boy was covered with a blanket as he and other refugees and migrants waited to cross the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece.
A migrant boy was covered with a blanket as he and other refugees and migrants waited to cross the Greek-Macedonian border near the village of Idomeni, Greece. ALEXANDROS AVRAMIDIS/REUTERS

Authorities in Greece have raised the death toll from a migrant boat sinking to 18, after recovering seven more bodies off the island of Samos in the eastern Aegean Sea.

The Coast Guard said Thursday that nine children were among the dead — four girls and five boys — while eight adult men and one woman also died.

Vessels from the European border agency Frontex were assisting the Greek Coast Guard in the search for others possibly missing, after 10 people were rescued.

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.

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Another boat sank off the island of Kos on Wednesday, leaving seven dead, including two children. Only two people were rescued from that incident.

Greece, with thousands of kilometers of coastline and islands very near the Turkish coast, is the main gateway into Europe for refugees and migrants. 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.