At least 36 migrants, including children and a pregnant woman, drowned in the Aegean Sea off Turkey after two rubber boats capsized, the Anadolu news agency reported Tuesday citing the Turkish coast guard.

The migrants were attempting to reach the Greek islands in stormy weather. Bodies were washing up in the areas of Ayvalik and Dikili, CNN Turk said.

The coast guard rescued 12 people, Anadolu reported, and the refugees were believed to be from Iraq, Syria and Algeria.

Many of the victims had poor-quality life jackets that are being sold illegally to the migrants on the Turkish coast.

Police Tuesday seized more than 1,000 such inferior vests from an illegal production shop in Izmir, Turkey. Two Syrian children also worked in this facility, CNN Turk reported. 

Last year, the Aegean became a main gateway for migrants, mainly refugees from Syria and other conflict zones in the Middle East and Asia who hope to find shelter in wealthy European countries.

About 850,000 people crossed the waterway to Europe in 2015, according to UN data. The surge continues despite the massive risks of crossing in rickety and unstable vessels and harsh winter weather.

According to the latest figures from the International Organization for Migration, at least 3,771 people drowned in the Mediterranean last year, with more than 800 in the Aegean.

Turkish authorities say they are sheltering 2.2 million refugees from Syria alone in 25 camps.

Turkey agreed in talks with the European Union in November to improve control over its borders and slow the flow of migrants, but without a significant result so far.

The Greek coast guard said two ferries brought 2,477 migrants from Lesbos and Chios to Athens early Tuesday, while 1,880 people arrived the previous evening.

From Greece, the refugees continue their travel towards western and northern Europe.

Since the second half of November, countries further along the Balkan route - Macedonia, Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia and Austria - have stopped all so-called economic migrants and are allowing only Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis to pass.

Hungary, which sealed its border to all migrants in September, on Monday sent 31 police officers to Macedonia to help the country filter refugees from economic migrants on the border with Greece.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and Interior Minister Robert Kalinak on Tuesday said their country will send a contingent of 25 policemen to Macedonia. 

Hungary and Slovakia legally challenged the EU refugee redistribution plan at the European Court of Justice.

The EU decided on September 22 to distribute 120,000 refugees from Italian and Greek refugee centres across the 28 member states in line with mandatory quotas. Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Romania voted against.

Related stories

Eighteen refugees drown off Turkish coast

At least 11 die off Greece as migrant boat capsizes

Deadly summer sailing season begins

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.