The executive European Commission is calling on EU countries to admit nearly 50 migrants stranded on two rescue ships allowed to anchor temporarily off Malta, a spokesman said Thursday.
The Netherlands and Germany have each offered to admit some of the migrants but only if other EU countries do the same, highlighting anew the European Union's long-running deadlock over sharing responsibility for migrants.
Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos has been speaking with officials in EU capitals to admit 32 migrants aboard the Sea Watch 3 and 17 others aboard the Sea Eye, both operated by European charities.
"Avramopoulos calls for the member states to provide their support and contribute to this joint effort to disembark those on board safely," Commission deputy spokeswoman Mina Andreeva told a news conference in Brussels.
"More solidarity of all member states is needed," said the spokeswoman for the Commission, which is the EU's executive arm.
Though Malta has refused to admit the migrants aboard Sea-Watch 3 and Sea-Eye, it announced Wednesday it would allow them to "take shelter" in Maltese waters due to the deteriorating conditions on board.
Italy and Spain -- both of which are frontline countries -- have also refused to accept them.
Migrants have been frequently stranded aboard ships that rescued them since Italy's populist anti-immigration government began turning them away last summer.
Since coming to power more than six months ago, the Italian government has been demanding greater solidarity from reluctant fellow EU states.
Andreeva said the latest standoff demonstrates how "predictable and sustainable solutions for disembarkation and allocation are urgently needed in the Mediterranean," she said.
EU member states have failed to agree on a permanent mechanism to relocate migrants who reach EU shores even though arrivals have dropped sharply since a peak more than three years ago.
More than one million people, most of them fleeing Syria's civil war, entered the bloc in 2015 in Europe's biggest migration crisis since World War II.
Some 113,482 migrants crossed the Mediterranean to reach European shores last year, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, which said 2,262 people lost their lives or went missing making the perilous journey.
Brussels, Belgium | AFP