At least 17 migrants were killed Friday while trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea from Libya to reach Italy.
According to officials, 16 bodies were found on board a crowded dinghy floating south of Lampedusa, while another person died shortly after the arrival of rescuers, The Local online reported.
The majority are thought to have died from dehydration and hyperthermia, the Italian Navy said.
One person suffering acute hypothermia was flown by helicopter to Lampedusa, while 74 other passengers were helped to board a navy ship.
A total of 278 boat migrants were picked up by the authorities Thursday, as people continue to make the perilous sea journey despite heightened risks during the winter months.
Italian Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni has said that more action was needed to tackle what has become “one of the great European problems”.
“We can’t think that this is a problem that only involves Italy, Greece, Spain, France and the southern European countries,” he said.
While Gentiloni said European countries are increasingly aware of the crisis, he called for European Union’s (EU) efforts to reach beyond the boats.
At least 3,300 people have died attempting to reach Europe by boat so far this year.
The Italian Navy has rescued 160,000 migrants.