Twelve migrants drown as boat sinks off Lefkada

Police believe victims were most probably Syrian refugees

Police say the twelve victims, including four children aged between 3 and 6 years old, were most probably Syrian refugees

Paramedics carry the body of a drowned migrant into Lefkada hospital, 15 November 2013 (AFP/Eurokinissi) Paramedics carry the body of a drowned migrant into Lefkada hospital, 15 November 2013 (AFP/Eurokinissi) Twelve people, including four children, who drowned in the sea between the Ionian island of Lefkada and the western coast were most probably Syrian refugees, police said on Friday.

The police said the four drowned children included three boys and a girl between 3 and 6 years old.

They suspect that the boat sank because its was overloaded, as the weather conditions were very good in the area at the time the vessel went down.

Another 15 people who were on the vessel have been hospitalised on Lefkada and in the mainland city of Preveza, while the Agrinio hospital on the mainland has also been placed on alert in case more survivors are found.

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Police are continuing their search for other victims or survivors.

The say the boat was stolen and are looking for the traffickers behind the sailing.

They said that migrants called them from the boat when it started sinking.

Government spokesman Simos Kedikoglou called for the immediate implementation of EU initiatives to deal with undocumented migration.

"The new tragedy off Lefkada with victims small children confirms the need for the immediate implementation of the initiatives undertaken by the European Union to confront the illegal migration problem," Kedikoglou said.

"The actions must particularly focus on the dismantling of the rings set up by human traffickers who profiteer on desperate people's lives," he stressed, adding that "Greece has been facing an illegal migration issue for years but now the problem is not only Greek. The answer must be a European one."

Last week, a German human rights NGO said refugees attempting to enter Greece were being systematically, illegally and, in cases, brutally pushed back by the authorities, in contravention of international law and with the complicity of the European authorities.

In a lengthy report based on detailed interviews with refugees, Pro-Asyl said that push backs were occurring on the Greek islands and on the country's land borders and that the majority of victims are Syrian refugees, including vulnerable groups such as children, babies and critically ill patients.

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