A Spanish warship docked in the port of Salerno in southern Italy.
Following several rescues, their bodies were discovered in a Spanish warship, Cantabria, carrying 375 migrants and the dead women; 23 of whom women had been on a rubber boat with 64 other people.
Five migrants are being questioned by Italian officials about the bodies, which range in age from 14 to 18. Rescuers said that survivors were found hanging onto the boat while the bodies of those died were floating around them.
Among the survivors were 52 children and 90 women, eight of whom are said to be pregnant.
"We will need to see whether there are suspects to concentrate on or whether the murder inquiry will proceed against persons unknown", he said. Many from sub-Saharan Africa, are fleeing war and persecution; others from impoverished nations in Africa, the Middle East and South Asia have made the treacherous journey in search of better economic opportunities.
Women are more likely to drown because they can not swim as well as men or because they sit on the lower levels of the vessels carrying them, away from life jackets, according to a 2012 study published in Sage. A total number of 2,839 have died so far this year along all primary Mediterranean routes.
Traffickers are still sending migrant boats out into the Mediterranean - the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on November 3 that more than 2,560 migrants had been saved over four days.
Of them, 111,552 (nearly 75%) came via the Central Mediterranean route to Italy. 150,982 migrants have reached European shores, namely 74% arrive on Italian territory.
The others arrived in Greece, Cyprus or Spain.
Since 2014, more than 400,000 migrants and refugees have crossed the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy.
"It's a tragedy. The prosecutor's office will begin looking into it immediately", Salerno's prefect Salvatore Malfi said. "But also women traveling alone with their children have been abused".
But the story of 26 young African women whose bodies were recovered near a smuggler's boatload of migrants caused some heads to turn and tears to fall.