ATHENS Dec 15 A small boat carrying migrants
hoping to get to Greece sank near the eastern island of Lesvos
early on Saturday, drowning 20 people, Greek police said.
The boat had set off from the nearby Turkish coast carrying
27 migrants and its captain. It capsized about one mile (1.6 km
off the coast of Lesvos due to strong winds, according to a
survivor, police said.
"The survivor told coast guard authorities all the
immigrants were from Iraq and had paid about 2,000 dollars per
head to be transported to the island," a police official said.
The Greek coast guard found 20 bodies in the sea and was
searching for any remaining survivors, the official said.
Thousands of illegal immigrants cross the country's porous
sea and land borders every year, the vast majority via Turkey.
With Greece in its fifth year of a deep recession and hit by
rising crime levels, illegal immigration became a major issue in
the national elections earlier this year.
(Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; editing by Jason Webb)