(CNN)Gibraltar has moved to strip a stranded migrant rescue ship of its registration amid a row over which country is responsible for taking in the 141 desperate migrants, including dozens of children, on board.
Gibraltar ship stripped of flag amid dispute over migrants stranded at sea
Maritime authorities in Malta and Italy refused the Aquarius' requests to dock Monday and allow the migrants, who were pulled from waters off the coast of Libya on Friday, to disembark.
The migrants include 25 people who had spent 35 hours at drifting sea on a small wooden boat before being rescued, according to migrant rescue charity SOS Méditerranée.
Among the "weak and malnourished" migrants are two pregnant women and 67 unaccompanied minors, many from Somalia and Eritrea, some of whom reported being held in inhuman conditions in Libya, the charity said.
On Monday, Italian transport minister Danilo Toninelli urged the UK to "assume its responsibility" for the migrants because the ship sails under the flag of Gibraltar, a British territory.
The UK refuted the idea that the Aquarius was its responsibility, though it expressed concern for the welfare of those on board.
"It is well-established that responsibility for arranging disembarkation, at a nearby safe port, is assumed by the relevant regional Maritime Rescue and Co-ordination, and in accordance with the wishes of the ship's Master," said a government spokesperson in a statement.
After Gibraltar's move to revoke its registration, the Aquarius will now revert to the flag of its "underlying owner," Germany, according to a statement from the Gibraltar Maritime Administration (GMA). Germany has yet to issue a statement on the issue.
The humanitarian ship, operated by charities SOS Méditerranée and Doctors Without Borders (MSF), remains on standby in the sea between Malta and Italy, awaiting further guidance.
"MSF is particularly concerned about group of 38 children who are under 15 years of age and who do not