The migrants remain stuck aboard two humanitarian rescue ships in the Mediterranean after being refused a safe port to dock.

Thirty-two people are on board the Sea-Watch 3, a ship run by a German humanitarian group, after being rescued off the shore of Libya on December 22.

Among them are children and teenagers.

Seventeen others are stranded on a vessel run by the German group Sea-Eye after being rescued on December 29.

Addressing thousands of faithful in St Peter’s Square on Sunday, Pope Francis appealed to Italian and Maltese leaders to allow the migrants to disembark.

“I make a heartfelt appeal to European leaders to show concrete solidarity for these people,” he said, raising his voice.

As part of its hardline stance against immigration, Italy’s populist government has closed its ports off to private aid vessels carrying migrants rescued at sea.

Malta is also refusing to let the boats dock in its ports, but has allowed them to enter its waters for fresh supplies and protection from strong winds.

Shortly before the pope made his appeal, Maltese Prime Minister Joseph Muscat defended his country’s refusal to take in the migrants, saying it had no legal responsibility for them.

“We need to find a balance between the human aspect and national security,” he argued.

 “This is an issue that might set a precedent and we should be vigilant about it.”

Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio was quick to respond to Muscat, saying Italy had for years taken in migrants rescued at sea.

“Now, Malta has to do its part,” he declared.

Di Maio stated Italy will take in women and children if Malta allows the ships to dock.

Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, who has spearheaded Italy’s new anti-immigrant policy, has since disputed Di Maio’s offer, causing tension within the government.