Thousands of migrants and refugees have died in recent years while attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea [File: Reuters]

At least 12 people have drowned when a boat loaded with asylum seekers sank in the Ionian Sea, according to Greece‘s coast guard.    

“So far 12 bodies have been recovered. The search and rescue operation continues,” the coast guard said in a statement, adding that 21 people had been rescued. Three of those rescued were flown to Aktio, in western Greece, to receive medical treatment.

Authorities said the boat took on water near the island of Paxi during an apparent attempt to reach Italy.

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Six coast guard patrol boats and two navy helicopters were engaged in the continuing rescue effort, the coast guard

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