Malta says it is willing to take in 39 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean Sea early Saturday by a Spanish NGO's ship.
Malta said, however, it would not take the 121 people who were already on the vessel who were plucked from the sea last week.
Malta said its military had already mounted an effort to rescue the 39.
Proactive Open Arms, the migrant rescue group, recovered the 39 instead and has refused to disembark the group if Malta does not take the group of 121 migrants.
Malta said in a statement that the larger group was rescued in "an area where Malta is neither responsible nor the competent coordinating authority. Malta can only shoulder its own responsibility since other solutions are not forthcoming."
Oscar Camps, the founder of Proactive Open Arms, said Malta's decision not to take the 121 migrants has "caused a serious security problem" on the ship. "The anxiety of these people is unbearable."
Actor Richard Gere who brought food and water to the ship Friday, said, "The most important thing for these people here is to be able to get to a free port, to be able to get off the boat, to start a new life for themselves."