More than 128 migrants have been rescued after their raft sank off the Mediterranean coast of Malta, amid a fresh appeal by the country's prime minister to Europe to take action to manage the growing influx of refugees.

Winds and seas were rocking the raft when it was spotted by a Maltese patrol aircraft on Wednesday.

A tanker was the first on the scene but its crew said they could not haul the migrants on board, forcing an intervention by a US navy ship headquartered in Naples, Italy.

The boat issued an SOS call because it risked capsizing in strong winds and high waves. The migrants were taken back to Malta.

Hundreds of asylum-seekers have drowned in two tragedies this month - the first on October 3 near the Italian island of Lampedusa, the second on October 11 between Lampedusa and Malta.

Joseph Muscat, the Maltese prime minister, meanwhile, called on the European Union to "translate words into action", following promises of greater assistance with asylum-seekers.

A summit of EU leaders in Brussels next week is expected to discuss the refugee issue.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies