ATHENS - A small boat loaded with Afghan families smashed onto the rocks and sank off an island in the Aegean Sea yesterday, causing three women and five children to drown.
The deadly accident highlighted the plight of thousands of migrants who risk their lives every year to reach the European Union.
Athens accused neighboring Turkey, from where the vessel set off, of doing little to stop thousands of illegal immigrants from arriving in Greece. Human rights groups, however, urged Greece to improve its treatment of migrants and its handling of asylum applications.
The coast guard said high waves swept the flimsy boat with 18 on board onto a rocky shore on Lesvos. Seven men, a woman, and a child - all Afghans - swam ashore and were hospitalized for observation.
One of the 10 survivors, identified only as a Turkish man, was arrested on smuggling charges.
Under Greece’s tough immigration laws, traffickers involved in fatal accidents face life terms and a minimum $750,000 fine.
Later yesterday, the coast guard rescued 45 illegal immigrants found abandoned on an uninhabited islet in the southeastern Aegean.