The European Union's executive is due this week to lay out options aimed at ensuring a better distribution of refugees across the bloc, after its asylum system broke down last year amid a migration surge into Europe.
Under the EU's so-called Dublin rules, asylum seekers must register their claim in the first member state they set foot in, and that country decides whether to accept or reject the request.
For most of the more than 1 million people reaching the bloc last year, this would have been Greece. But the country was overwhelmed by the arrivals, letting many of them continue their journey unchecked towards wealthy northern European states such as Germany and Sweden.
The European Commission is expected Wednesday to outline two options to reform the Dublin system, with the aim of triggering debate among member states, its representative in Germany Richard Kuehnel said Tuesday.
One suggestion foresees a "standardized European treatment of asylum seekers," while the "less ambitious" alternative would involve tweaking the existing system, Kuehnel said, speaking to journalists in the eastern German city of Dresden.
Under the first option, all EU-wide asylum seekers would be assigned to member states according to a distribution key taking into account the country's size, wealth and capacity to absorb refugees, German daily Die Welt reported Tuesday.
The commission suggested that the European Asylum Support Office could ultimately be tasked with processing asylum claims, Die Welt added. The report cited a source in Brussels familiar with the matter, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Any move to shift asylum decisions away from national capitals and onto the European level is likely to face resistance, however, as the issue of refugees is sensitive and has triggered a populist backlash in a number of member states.
Under the second option, the Dublin system would be kept in place, complemented with a "corrective" mechanism that would be triggered by a mass inflow of asylum seekers into a given member state, Die Welt wrote.
Once the number of arrivals hits a threshold previously agreed for that country, a share of them would be redistributed within the EU according to a distribution key.
Last year, member states agreed as a one-off measure to redistribute up to 160,000 asylum seekers from frontline countries, notably Greece and Italy. But by Monday, just 1,111 people had been relocated under that scheme, according to the commission.
For any changes to the Dublin system to take effect, the commission must first present legislative proposals that would then require member state approval, as well as undergoing scrutiny in the European Parliament.