At least 22 migrants including four children have drowned in the Aegean Sea after a yacht and a dinghy carrying them towards Greek shores capsized, coastguard officials said.

Eighteen people were found dead on board the 10-metre yacht after it was towed to shore, the coastguard said on Monday, adding that another four bodies were recovered at sea.

Some 65 migrants were attempting to make the crossing from neighbouring Turkey when their vessels went down near the Greek island of Samos.

The authorities have so far picked up 36 survivors, including three women and a boy, who was flown to an Athens hospital suffering from hypothermia.

A search was underway for half a dozen migrants still believed to be missing, backed by two helicopters, Greek and EU coastguard patrol vessels and three fishing boats.

Four children - three boys and a girl - are among those who perished in addition to 12 women and six men, the coastguard said.

The authorities did not give details of their nationalities.

A coastguard spokeswoman said the capsized vessels were spotted early on Monday morning by a patrol boat from the EU border agency Frontex, which alerted the Greek coastguard.

Greece is one of the main ports of entry into the European Union for people fleeing war-torn and impoverished countries in Africa, the Middle East and the Indian subcontinent.

People traffickers are using Greece's Aegean islands as a preferred route into Europe following a tightening of migration controls along its land border with Turkey.

At least 19 migrants have drowned in the perilous Aegean Sea crossings since the beginning of the year.

Source: AFP