At least 18 people have died and another nine have gone missing after a small vessel sank in the Aegean Sea, a Greek coast guard spokesperson told Efe Saturday.

The accident occurred early Saturday when a group of immigrants of unknown nationality attempted to reach the Greek island of Lesbos, very close to Turkey.

The only known survivor at present is a 20-year-old man who, according to the spokesperson, is the "only clue" they have about the shipwreck.

"The young man told us that 28 people were sailing in the boat and we have recovered the bodies of 18. We're afraid the others have also died," the source said.

The Greek coast guard and patrol boats of the European Frontex mission are working to find the missing persons.

Since 2008, when Italy and Spain made a pact with their North African neighbors to fight illegal immigration, the border between Greece and Turkey has become the principal point of entry into European Union territory for immigrants "with no papers."

Separately, the Italian coast guard said in a communique that it rescued 438 inmigrantes overnight as they were headed in two vessels toward the island of Lampedusa.

At 3:25 a.m Saturday, the coast guard led into a port on the small Italian island of Lampedusa a ship with 218 people aboard, seven of them women and all sub-Saharan Africans who had sailed hours before from an as yet unspecified point on the North African coast. EFE