Italy has been urged to let the 150 migrants stranded aboard a coastguard ship in Sicily to disembark immediately.

The country’s populist government has refused to let the passengers come ashore unless other EU nations commit to taking them. Now, EU countries are being implored to take responsibility for the migrants stranded aboard the Italian vessel by the United Nations’ refugee agency.

The Diciotti coastguard ship has been docked in the old port of Catania on the Italian island of Sicily for days.

Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, advised European countries to “do the right thing and offer places of asylum for people rescued from the Mediterranean Sea in their time of need.” He added that it was time to end “a race to the bottom on who can take the least responsibility for people rescued at sea.”

The vessel’s crew rescued the migrants on 16 August after they were spotted on a foundering human trafficker’s boat in the Mediterranean. Many of the migrants reportedly went on a hunger strike after being taken in.

There had been 177 refugees on the vessel, but 27 teenagers were allowed to disembark in Catania on Wednesday. Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini shrugged off reports of the hunger strike, tweeting: “They can do whatever they believe.”