by Maria Spiliopoulou
ATHENS, Sept. 13 (Xinhua)-- At least 34 migrants and refugees, among them 15 infants and children, drowned on Sunday in the Aegean Sea off the coasts of Farmakonissi island trying to reach Europe, according to the latest information of the Greek Coast Guard.
The new tragedy has shocked Greece which reiterated calls for urgent, coordinated EU action to deal with the unprecedented influx of desperate undocumented immigrants and refugees this year.
Throughout the day after the sinking of a wooden boat carrying a still undetermined number of migrants and refugees from Turkey to Greece (survivors said there were 100-120 people on board), Greek Coast Guard forces were retrieving dead bodies.
According to the latest information, four infants and eleven children were among the victims.
Their bodies will be transferred to the island of Rhodes, while the survivors have been transferred to the island of Leros where they receive first aid in a hotel.
"It is the least we should do for these people," the island's Mayor Michalis Kollias told local media.
The search for more survivors continues amid difficult weather conditions. When the boat capsized, according to eye witnesses and local authorities, winds up to 7 on the Beaufort scale were blowing in the area.
Greek Coast Guard sources also noted that the boat was overloaded by the smugglers on the Turkish shores.
The new tragedy occurred as the Greek caretaker Prime Minister Vassiliki Thanou during a visit to Aegean Sea islands which have been most affected by the influx, dismissed criticism over Greece's failure to offer adequate assistance to refugees and migrants as unfair.
The premier urged critics to consider whether "Europe in the future can be constructed by erecting walls."
According to the latest official estimates, more than 230,000 refugees and migrants have reached Greece's shores from the start of 2015 seeking a better future in more prosperous central and northern European countries. Eight out of ten were Syrian fleeing the war.
More than 2,700 people have perished in the sea during their attempt in the Mediterranean this year.
Greece's Shipping Minister Christos Zois, who was on the nearby island of Lesvos to attend a meeting on the migration issue, expressed the deep sorrow of Greek society over the new loss of dozens of lives.
"After such tragedies it is imperative more than ever to immediately form a common European strategic cooperation and policy to address the issue to safeguard human life and dignity," he said.