Greek coast guard units discovered more bodies of irregular migrants six weeks after a boat carrying them capsized as they were trying to reach Europe.
The bodies of two men and a woman were badly decomposed, the coast guard said on Monday. The authorities assume that they were migrants who had not been found after their boats capsized at the end of December.
Several bodies have washed up on the Aegean islands since the accident.
Some 30 people died off the islands of Folegandros, Paros and Crete after their vessels capsized. Dozens of people are still missing.
The migrants were trying to get to Calabria in Italy and had traveled from Turkey, crossing the Aegean Sea, a journey made by many to avoid having their valuable possessions and clothes stolen, assaulted and pushed back by the Greek authorities in their damaged boats often leading to their deaths or a potentially long stay in one of the refugee camps on the Greek islands if they can make it through.
However, the long sea journeys often result in boats experiencing engine failure, leaving migrants to drift on the rough sea exposed to the elements. Furthermore, many wind up in boats that are damaged or leak.
It is not possible to estimate how many people died trying to make the journey, claimed the Greek coast guard.
Turkey has repeatedly condemned Greece's illegal practice of pushing back asylum-seekers, stating it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable migrants, including women and children.
Turkey's five Aegean provinces – Çanakkale, Balıkesir, Izmir, Muğla and Aydın – are prime spots for refugees seeking to leave Turkey for the European Union, with Greek islands within sight of the Turkish coast.
In recent years, hundreds of thousands have made short but perilous journeys across the Aegean to reach northern and western Europe in search of a better life.
Hundreds of people have died at sea as many boats carrying refugees often sink or capsize. The Turkish Coast Guard Command has rescued thousands of others.
Turkey and Greece are key transit points for migrants looking to cross into Europe, fleeing war and persecution to start new lives. Turkey has accused Greece of large-scale pushbacks, summary deportations and denying migrants access to asylum procedures, which is a violation of international law. Ankara also accuses the EU of turning a blind eye to this blatant abuse of human rights.
Pushbacks are considered contrary to international refugee protection agreements that say people should not be expelled or returned to a country where their life or safety might be in danger due to their race, religion, nationality or membership of a social or political group.