Refugees and migrants Greece
Refugees and migrants arrive in the island of Lesbos after crossing the Aegean sea from Turkey ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images

At least 12 migrants, including six children, have died as their boat sank off in the eastern Aegean Sea, the Greek coastguard said. Authorities fear the death toll of the latest migrant tragedy in the Mediterranean this year might go up as at least another 12 people who were on board are missing.

Several boats from the coast guard and the European Union's border agency Frontex are currently searching for survivors off the islet of Farmakonissi, where the incident happened. The vessels pulled 26 people from the water alive, including two children who have been rushed to a local hospital.

The wooden boat was said to be carrying around 50 people when it left the Turkish coast. The vessels sank despite good weather conditions in the area. A coastguard spokeswoman told IBTimes UK survivors said swamping caused the rickety boat to go down.

She said the victims were six children, four men and two women. Their nationalities were not immediately clear.

Almost 860,000 migrants and refugees landed in Europe this year while more than 3,500 died during the crossing, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). On 8 December another six children of Afghan nationality drowned after the rubber dinghy they were travelling in sank off Turkey's Aegean coast.

Earlier this week, the UN said the number of arrivals fell by more than a third in November, partially due to Turkey's crackdown on traffickers in the Aegean. The UN's children's agency also warned that women and children make up an increasing proportion of the migrants and refugees on the move, and currently account for more than half, up from just 27% a few months ago.