Migrant boat sinking off Greek island leaves 3 dead, 2 missing, 8 rescued

Refugees and migrants massed onto an inflatable boat reach Mytilene, northern island of Lesbos, after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey on February 17, 2016 (AFP photo)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — A search and rescue operation was underway Monday after a dinghy carrying migrants sank overnight off the coast of the small eastern Greek island of Symi, leaving at least three people dead, the coast guard said.

Eight people were rescued, with two of them transported to a hospital on the nearby island of Rhodes and the rest transferred to the main port in Symi, according to the coast guard.

Authorities said they recovered the bodies of two men and one woman from the sea. Survivors said two more people in the dinghy were believed to have managed to reach the shore on their own.

Two coast guard vessels, four private boats and an air force helicopter were searching the area for the two missing people. The nationalities of those on board the dinghy were not immediately known.

Greece lies along one of the most popular smuggling routes for people fleeing conflict and poverty in the Middle East, Africa and Asia and trying to get into the European Union.

Many use small dinghies to head from Turkey to Greek islands near the Turkish coast, while others use larger sailing boats, yachts or fishing vessels to make the longer crossing from either Turkey or north Africa to Italy, bypassing Greece.

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