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First migrants in a week land on Italy's Lampedusa

A small group of Tunisians arrived by boat on the Italian island of Lampedusa today, the first landing in over a week after a surge fuelled tensions in Europe over migration.

Seventeen Tunisians were admitted to the island's migrant reception centre, which earlier this month was overrun after 8,500 arrived in just three days, Italy's Ansa news agency reported.

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A little later, 38 migrants from Bangladesh arrived after their nine-metre boat was picked up off the coast by Italian authorities, Ansa said.

Bad weather over the past week had prevented those fleeing North Africa to venture the risky Mediterranean crossing.

The earlier surge pushed the migration issue once more to the top of the European agenda, with Italy's hard-right government demanding more help from Brussels.

More than 130,000 migrants have landed on Italy's shores so far this year, almost double the number last year, according to interior ministry figures.

Italy has clashed with Germany in recent days over Berlin's decision to fund charities that operate migrant rescue ships in the central Mediterranean, the world's deadliest migrant sea crossing.

In an interview with the daily La Repubblica, Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said that seven NGO ships, some of them flying the German flag, were "heading towards Lampedusa".

He said this was "really strange and worrying".

EU interior ministers met Thursday on long-discussed new rules for how the bloc handles asylum seekers and irregular migrants.

EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson said "no main obstacles" remain on the thorny issue and formal agreement would come "in a few days".

Changes were made to get Germany's agreement included making sure families and children were "prioritised" when they arrived irregularly on EU soil and admission criteria for asylum-seekers were not tightened, Berlin said.

But Italy has said it wants more time to study the text.

The leaders of the EU's nine Mediterranean countries have convened in Malta today for talks likely to be dominated by the migration issue.