At least three Bangladeshi evacuees from unrest-ridden Libya drowned off the southern Greek island of Crete Sunday as they tried to swim ashore from a passenger vessel, officials said.
The incident occurred shortly after the passenger ship "Ionion King" with 1,288 evacuees, all from Bangladesh, on board had docked in the port of Souda on Crete.
Some 50 evacuees had tried to use a rope to secretly descend from the ship, which was already moored, in an attempt to enter Greece illegally and so try to avoid being sent back to their country.
Coast guard officials said three people drowned in the attempt and 16 people were reported missing. Officials were combing the waters of the harbour trying to locate the missing immigrants.
Over the past week Greece has helped evacuate thousands of foreigners working in Libya, including more than 15,000 Chinese nationals, as clashes between pro-democracy protesters and security forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi continue.
The evacuees have spent several days in hotels on Crete - the bill paid for by Beijing - before leaving the Greek island on specially chartered flights back to China.
Clashes in the North African country have increased concerns about a new wave of illegal immigration into Europe.