ATHENS, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) -- Three people have been arrested on charges of human smuggling following the sinking of a boat carrying refugees and migrants off Greece's Paxoi island group on Saturday, the Greek Coast Guard said on Monday.
The three suspects were among the 21 people who were rescued, according to an e-mailed press release.
Twelve bodies were recovered on Saturday and the search and rescue operation continued on Monday, the Coast Guard said.
Survivors have told local media that approximately 50 people were on board the boat when it capsized under yet unclear circumstances.
No information has been given by the authorities on the nationalities of victims and survivors.
Saturday's tragedy is the deadliest occurring in Greece in recent months. Hundreds have perished in the Aegean Sea while attempting to reach Greece from Turkey among the million-plus people who have entered Europe via the Aegean since 2015.
Boat capsizings are rare in the Ionian Sea in western Greece compared to the Aegean.
Following the closure of borders along the Balkan route and the conclusion of the EU-Turkey agreement in spring 2016 aimed at stemming the influx, arrivals have decreased dramatically before picking up again in recent months.
In 2019, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), Greece registered 74,482 arrivals, significantly up from the 50,508 recorded in 2018. The majority of the migrants (59,457) last year crossed the Aegean Sea, while 14,891 people entered Greece from Turkey through their land border in the north.