Source AP ©

Afghan teenager killed in Greece

Police arrested a Greek border guard after an illegal immigrant was shot dead in northern Greece on Thursday. The claims that an Afghan teenager was stabbed by harbor police are under investigation.

The 45-year-old Albanian was fatally shot in the back during a chase by Greek border guards, on the rugged frontier with the Balkan country, police said. Greek authorities arrested another 10 men who illegally entered the country with the man.

Greece is facing an unusually high influx of illegal immigrants, mostly by sea, accompanied by embarrassing claims that coast guard personnel systematically mistreated boat people heading for the country's eastern islands.

A 14-year-old Afghan claimed Thursday that an officer stabbed him with a knife in the western port of Patras when he tried to escape arrest, the Merchant Marine Ministry said.

The boy had been hiding in a truck waiting to board a ferry for Italy. He was hospitalized with minor injuries, the ministry said.

Merchant Marine Minister George Voulgarakis called for "exemplary punishment" should any officer be found responsible for the alleged attack. A Patras prosecutor ordered a separate investigation.

Greece has denied mistreating illegal immigrants, thousands of whom enter the country every year, mainly on rickety boats from the nearby Turkish coast, to seek a better life in the European Union.

The government says illegal immigration is a major problem for the Mediterranean country, which has a 13,000-kilometer (8,000-mile) coastline dotted with thousands of islands.

According to Merchant Marine Ministry figures released Thursday, more than 7,000 migrants were detained so far this year for illegally entering the country by sea - double the total for the whole of 2006. Another 1,260 migrants were caught trying to leave the country illegally, while coast guard personnel arrested a total of 337 suspected people-smugglers.

The ministry also said an estimated 2,873 migrants had been "deterred from entering" the country by sea. A ministry spokeswoman said this referred to migrant boats turning back at the sight of Greek patrol craft.

Last month, the ministry launched a probe into claims by a German refugee rights group that patrols regularly engage in "life-threatening maneuvers" to deter migrant boats from entering Greek waters. The Pro Asyl group also alleged that in one case a migrant was tortured with a mock execution and by being ducked in a bucket of water.

Human rights groups have also accused Greek authorities of blocking non-economic migrants from seeking refugee status.

Greece has denied the allegations.