The UN refugee agency today called on Italy and Malta to immediately allow a boat carrying hundreds of migrants to dock, describing the situation as "an urgent humanitarian imperative."
Some 629 people, including pregnant women and scores of children, were saved by SOS Mediterranean Saturday and are stuck aboard the French NGO's ship Aquarius, which is currently between Malta and Sicily waiting for a secure port.
In a statement, UNHCR "appealed to concerned governments to allow the immediate disembarkation of hundreds of people stranded in the Mediterranean since Saturday.
The agency's special envoy for migrants in the Mediterranean, Vincent Cochetel, underscored that "people are in distress, are running out of provisions and need help quickly."
"Broader issues such as who has responsibility and how these responsibilities can best be shared between States should be looked at later," he said in the statement.
A Maltese government spokesman told AFP that the rescue of the migrants took place in the Libyan search and rescue area and was headed up by the rescue coordination centre in Rome, meaning Malta has no legal obligation to take in the migrants.
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