Search for dozens of unaccounted people continues after two boats carrying about 140 people sink. Separately, Turkish authorities rescue 48 refugees pushed back by Greek coast guard into Turkish waters.

Authorities and local residents rescue a refugee during a large-scale operation on the island of Kythira, some 225 kilometres south of Athens.
Authorities and local residents rescue a refugee during a large-scale operation on the island of Kythira, some 225 kilometres south of Athens. (AP)

At least 15 people have drowned after two boats carrying refugees and migrants sank in the Aegean Sea, and rescuers were looking for dozens still missing, Greek authorities said. 

The coast guard said 15 bodies had been recovered near the eastern island of Midilli (Lesvos) early on Thursday after a dinghy carrying about 40 people sank. Five people were rescued and three had been located on a rocky outcrop near the site of the sinking. 

A second rescue effort was launched several hundred kilometres to the west, near the island of Kythira, where a sailboat carrying about 100 refugees and migrants hit rocks and sank late on Wednesday.

Kythira is some 400 kilometers west of Türkiye and on a route often used to bypass Greece and head directly to Italy.

Officials said 30 people had been rescued after that boat hit rocks off the village port of Diakofti on the east of the island. Winds in the area were up to 70 kph.

"We could see the boat smashing against the rocks and people climbing up those rocks to try and save themselves. It was an unbelievable sight," Martha Stathaki, a local resident told The Associated Press news agency. 

"All the residents here went down to the harbour to try and help."

Local officials said a school in the area would be opened to provide shelter for the rescued. Navy divers were also expected to arrive on Thursday.

Greece's deadly pushbacks

Separately, Turkish authorities saved 48 refugees pushed back by the Greek coast guard to the Türkiye's territorial waters on the western coast of Kusadasi on Wednesday.

Authorities dispatched a rescue team to the refugees' location who were sailing in a rubber boat and brought them to the Turkish coast. 

According to Turkish Coast Guard Command over 100 pushback incidents took place in August in the Aegean Sea with some 3,700 people rescued. 

Human rights groups and media outlets have frequently reported on illegal pushbacks and other human rights breaches by Greek authorities. 

Ankara and global rights groups have repeatedly condemned Greece's illegal practice of pushing back asylum seekers, saying it violates humanitarian values and international law by endangering the lives of vulnerable refugees, including women and children. 

READ MORE: Turkish drone records fresh Greek pushback of migrants in Aegean Sea

European Union has remained silent against Athens' pushback policy. Frontex, which facilitates border patrol coordination in Europe, appears to turn a blind eye to Greece's practices in the region. 

Videos and witnesses have exposed how Greek border guards beat refugees, take their money and leave them naked in the winter. 

READ MORE: EU border agency 'covered up' Greek pushbacks

Source: TRTWorld and agencies