Migrants who were rescued after their boat capsized and sunk in the Mediterranean claim they were shot at as they left a Libyan port.
A Syrian man, who refused to give his name fearing reprisals against family members still in Syria, told a group of reporters that the boat they were on was chased by another as soon as it left Libya and that "shots were fired" towards them.
Italian and Maltese navy ships recovered 34 bodies and rescued 206 migrants after their boat sank about 60 miles south of Sicily on Friday.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres called for an investigation and also expressed concern that Syrians fleeing conflict have sought to reach Europe by such a perilous route, calling it "inhumane."
The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Pope Francis have joined Malta's prime minister in calling for urgent international action to prevent the catastrophic loss of life among migrants fleeing Africa in unsuitable boats.
They spoke out as another vessel laden with passengers capsized, killing around 40 people. Last week 300 people died in a similar accident. Malta's premier said the waters off Africa are being "turned into a cemetery."
Dramatic video footage released by the Italian navy shows stricken migrants being rescued from the sea after the boat they were travelling on capsized and sank.
The footage shows migrant survivors floating in the sea, before Italian naval officers come to their aid.
Officers can also be seen lifting a young baby on to a rescue boat.
Italian and Maltese navy ships have recovered 34 bodies and rescued 206 migrants after their boat sank around 60 miles south of Sicily on Friday.
Earlier this month, an estimated 311 Eritean and Somali migrants died after their boat caught fire and sank off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.
Malta's prime minister said the people on board a boat that capsized in the Mediterranean on Friday were fleeing the conflict in Syria.
The accident follows last week's disaster off the Italian island of Lampedusa, where 339 Eritrean and Somali migrants drowned.
Joseph Muscat told Sky News:
– Joseph Muscat, Maltese PM
The difference from last week's tragedy is that these people, instead of Somalia, they hail from Syria which makes the case even more complicated and shows the immense humanitarian tragedy that the Mediterranean is experiencing right now.
Italian and Maltese naval vessels have recovered 34 bodies from a migrant boat that capsized in the Mediterranean, the Italian navy has said.
Italian media said that the boat capsized on Friday when panicked people aboard waved for help.
The Italian navy added that a rescue ship had been dispatched to help another boat in distress in the area.
The recent deaths prompted renewed calls for the European Union to do more to better patrol the southern Mediterranean and prevent tragedies - and for countries like Libya to crack down on smuggling operations.
"We cannot allow the Mediterranean to become a cemetery," Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat said.
Lampedusa is the destination of choice for smugglers who usually charge more than 1,000 euro (£850) a head and cram the migrants onto boats that routinely run into trouble and require rescue.
Fortress Europe, an Italian observatory that tracks migrant deaths reported by the media, says about 6,450 people died in the Canal of Sicily between 1994 and 2012.
Malta's prime minister says 27 people are confirmed dead after the capsizing of a migrant ship off the Sicilian island of Lampedusa.
Joseph Muscat said over 200 people have been rescued and that the search is continuing.
He said at least three of the 27 dead are children.
Some 206 survivors have been recovered from the sea following the capsizing of a boat near Italy, according to the Armed Forces of Malta.
In a post on its Facebook page, the AFM said it was confirmed that 180 adults and 26 children had been rescued by itself and the Italian Navy.
The page also reports that "at least 4 deceased persons have also been recovered".
Around 50 corpses have so far been sighted where a boat carrying African migrants capsized near Italy, including around 10 children.
The news was reported by Italian news agency ANSA, after the boat spilled around 250 passengers into the sea between Sicily and Tunisia.