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Greek authorities have launched a search at sea and in the air for six people reported missing by a group of migrants found on Thursday on the island of Leros, in the south-east Aegean Sea, after crossing the nearby Turkish coast in a rubber boat.

A separate operation was also underway off southwestern Greece after passing merchant ships picked up 85 migrants from a distressed wooden ship that appeared to be headed for Italy.

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The Greek coast guard said 49 people were found on a beach in Leros. He said the migrants, who were all in good health, said there were 55 people in total on the fragile ship when it left Turkey.

The Greek flag painted on a hill on the island of Pserimos.
(Ali Balli Agency / Anadolu via Getty Images.)

Separately, the coast guard said a merchant ship and drone were searching the Mediterranean Sea 65 miles southwest of the Greek port of Pylos after the second incident involving a wooden ship carrying migrants.

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He said the boat was located by a Portuguese-flagged freighter that collected 82 people, while three others were rescued by a passing Liberian-flagged tanker.

All 85 survivors were taken to an anchorage off the southern port of Kalamata, from where they were ferried ashore in smaller ships.

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Greece is a major destination for people from the Middle East, Africa and Asia who board unsafe boats from Turkey hoping to start a better life in Europe.

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After Greece stepped up sea and air patrols in the Aegean to try to reduce the influx of migrants, smugglers herded the migrants onto yachts bound for Italy.

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