The latest tragic sinking of a boat carrying migrants and refugees in the Aegean was a sad and terrible reminder that human life must not be dependent on the interests of traffickers or state policies, or at the mercy of human desperation, Migration Policy Minister Dimitris Vitsas said on Saturday.

"We cannot and must not become used or tolerate losing people, losing children, to the waters of the Aegean," he said.

The minister was responding to reports that a wooden boat carrying at least 21 migrants and refugees had sunk southeast of the island of Agathonissi in the Aegean, drowning several people on board, including four children.

Vitsas said that efforts were now focused on the search and rescue operation underway to find survivors. At the same time, he noted, "it is clear that the solution lies in measures to protect people, on safe procedures and routes for refugees and migrants while ruthlessly striking the rings trafficking in people and lives."

The minister has also placed island reception and identification centres and refugee camps in the interior on standby, as well as all the agencies involved.