The boat, which is run by Medicine Sans Frontiers and SOS Mediterranee, picked up the people who include 67 unaccompanied minors and two pregnant women and is now in international waters between Italy and Malta after both countries refused to take them in.
On Monday, Italy’s Transport Minister Danilo Toninelli urged the British government to “assume its responsibility” for the people on board the Aquarius.
“The boat is now in Maltese waters and has a Gibraltar flag. At this point, the United Kingdom should take responsibility for the safeguarding of the shipwrecked,” Toninelli said on Twitter.
Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini also took to Twitter on Monday, and said the Aquarius “can go wherever it wants, [but] not to Italy”.
Malta’s government meanwhile issued a statement saying it had “no legal obligation to make the arrangements to provide for a place of safety”.
The Aquarius is one of the last two NGO vessels still operating in the Mediterranean, after pressure from Italy and Malta forced most others to stop patrols.
According to Amnesty International, close to 720 people have died in June and July this year, due to the lack of ships.
MSF meanwhile said its crew reported that the vessel was standing by at 60km from European shores.
“The preferred option is to receive a place that is much closer, so that the boat could disembark quickly,” MSF coordinator Jason Rizzo urged on Monday.