Two boats carrying about 200 Somali and Eritrean migrants trying to reach Italy made calls for help on Thursday at Italian authorities concluded the search for bodies after a shipwreck that left more than 300 Africans dead.
The boats are still in Libyan territorial waters, the Italian coast guard reported.
The first request for aid was received by Aden Sabrie, a Somali journalist who collaborates with the BBC and who said that 120 fellow Somalis, including 30 women and 20 children, are having difficulty on board one of the boats that set sail from Libya two days ago.
A similar telephone call from another group made up of around 100 Eritreans, including many woman and children, was received by the Rev. Mose Zeria, who is of Eritrean origin and concerns himself with refugees and those who are requesting asylum.
The two calls were transmitted to the Italian coast guard, who - after spotting the boats in Libyan waters - requested that several of merchant vessels sailing in the zone that they provide aid to the migrants.
In the first eight months of 2013, 21,241 undocumented migrants arrived on Italy's coasts, up from 15,570 in all of 2012, according to a study conducted by Censis, an Italian non-profit social sciences and economics institute. EFE