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07:35 - Source: CNN

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144 people rescued, spokeswoman says

Boats sank near two Greek islands close to Turkey

CNN  — 

Twenty-two people died Friday when two boats sank in the eastern Aegean Sea, a spokeswoman for the Hellenic Coastguards told CNN.

The spokeswoman said 144 people had been rescued.

The Aegean Sea is bounded by Turkey on the east and Greece on the west. Greece – with its extensive coastline, which is difficult to patrol – is a common destination for people seeking to enter the European Union.

And some Greek islands lie in the eastern part of the sea, close to the Turkish coast. Once people reach them, they have officially set foot on European Union soil, and they can file claims for the right to stay in the EU.

A tide of families

The Greek spokeswoman said 19 people died Friday off the coast of Kalymnos, a Greek island near the Turkish city of Bodrum. She said 138 people were rescued there.

And she said three people died and six were rescued off the coast of Rhodes, a Greek island also near the Turkish coast, but further south.

Europe has been overwhelmed this year by a tide of families fleeing war in Syria, as well as poverty and violence in other countries in the Middle East and North Africa.