A coastguard official said on Monday that a woman refugee drowned and up to five others have gone missing after people smugglers threw them into the sea of southern Italy.
Thirty-seven Somali refugees who were aboard the boat either made it to shore safely or were scooped out of the water alive by rescuers, the coastguard said.
The body of a woman in her 30s was recovered from the rocks along the coast and a search was underway for five others who went missing after the smugglers threw them into the sea, the coastguard said.
The smugglers had accompanied the refugee in the wooden vessel from Greece then escaped on a second boat, the official said.
The 37 survivors are all Somalis and include 35 women and two males, one of them a 10-year-old boy who was among five people hospitalised for hypothermia, the coastguard said.
Last year nearly 3,800 refugees died in attempts to enter the European Union by sea.
Italy and Greece are among the frontline countries in Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War Two.
The UN’s refugee agency also reported more than 1 million people in total have arrived to Europe by sea in 2015.