(CNN) — A migrant boat carrying some 100 people capsized during an attempt to reach the UK, with at least 27 dead in the Mediterranean Sea, Italy’s coast guard said Sunday.
Those killed appear to be mostly Afghan nationals, Fabrizio Curcio, an Italian coast guard spokesman, told CNN.
“I can tell you it was not a freight ship,” Curcio said. “It was a migrant boat.”
Italian Coast Guard and European Union vessels rescued the others after receiving a distress call Saturday morning.
The boat had been heading to Britain, according to Curcio.
Uniformed police are combing the area Sunday, with the aid of foreign authorities, including the UK and US military, to recover the bodies, officials said.
The Coast Guard also announced that a second migrant ship, the San Martino, had arrived Sunday, carrying more than 200 African migrants.
There are plans to board it and tow it in the direction of Italy.
Boat crossings have increased since 2016
The incident follows a death in Italy this past week, in which 36 migrants were killed when a boat capsized off Sicily.
Smugglers continue to capitalize on fears of harsher sanctions in Europe for migrants attempting to cross the Mediterranean, according to the US State Department. The EU has stated that African migrants who reach the EU have the right to asylum, which the US says doesn’t consider countries like Libya a safe harbor.
There were more than 1,500 deaths on the Mediterranean Sea from January to July, more than two-thirds of them at sea, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. The figures, which include people who died during rescue efforts, has marked a 13-year high, the UN agency said.
The worst statistic, with 324 deaths, occurred in May. June saw 368 migrants die at sea.
The Italian Coast Guard said it’s responding to some 20 reports of people in distress at sea this weekend, including migrants reporting medical problems.