Italian coast guards on Saturday said they had rescued 149 migrants, including Arabs, off the island of Lampedsa although around 20 others were apparently missing according to the survivors.
A crowded boat filled with migrants capsized in wind-whipped seas, sending them tumbling into the water, said the Italian coast guard, which pulled 149 of them to safety.
Survivors said that around 20 of those who had been on the boat were missing.
Two men, an Eritrean and a Libyan, said they had been unable to locate their wives following the rescue.
A search for those missing continued on Saturday evening with two planes from Frontex -- the border and coast guard agency for the EU's Schengen area -- and the Italian navy flying over the area.
Police were also searching the Lampedusa coast to see if any of the migrants had managed to swim ashore.
Those rescued were taken to Lampedusa where they were allowed to disembark.
The coast guard said no bodies were spotted at sea during the rescue.
Meanwhile, Italy, Germany, France and Malta jointly asked the European Commission to activate a migrant-relocation scheme for 213 migrants on board the Ocean Viking rescue ship, the Foreign Affairs Ministry said.
"This is the first time this has happened" since the signing of a pre-agreement for the automatic distribution of rescued migrants in the Mediterranean concluded in September in Malta by four EU countries (France, Germany, Malta and Italy).
The Ocean Viking, chartered by SOS Mediterranee with Doctors Without Borders, has rescued 215 people in three operations in recent days. One injured man and a pregnant woman had already been taken off the boat.