Greece is a major gateway into the European
Union for migrants from Africa and the Middle East, who often cross the sea in
unsafe boats. The civil war in Syria has increased the human traffic.
The vessel, carrying 17 migrants, capsized about 1.5 nautical miles off the
northeast coast of Lesbos after midnight, an official at Greece's shipping
"Eight migrants were rescued and taken to hospital. They are in good condition.
Two are missing and a search is continuing," the official said. "Among those who
drowned were a young boy and a girl."
The migrants were thought to be Syrian but authorities could not yet confirm
their nationality, the official said.
Crisis-hit Greece, Italy and Malta, the EU's gate-keepers, have repeatedly
pressed European Union partners to do more to help handle the flood of migrants.
Greece has long struggled with illegal immigration, a situation worsened by a
deep economic crisis that has aggravated anti-immigrant sentiment among Greeks.
Prime Minister Antonis Smaras has made illegal immigration a priority for
Greece's six-month stint as holder of the rotating EU presidency.
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos and Theodora Arvanitidou;
editing by Larry
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