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Photograph: EPA/JULIEN WARNAND

The European Union's executive is due Wednesday to propose hefty fees for EU capitals that don't take in asylum seekers from overburdened member states, media reported, amid an effort to spread refugees more evenly across the bloc.

The proposals are aimed at reforming the EU's asylum system, which broke down under the pressure of last year's migration surge into Europe.

Under the so-called Dublin rules, refugees must register their claim of asylum in the first EU member state they reach, and that country should then decide on their request.

For most of the more than 1 million people reaching the bloc last year, the first EU member state reached would have been Greece. But Athens, overwhelmed by the arrivals, allowed many of them to continue unchecked towards wealthy, northern European states such as Germany and Sweden.

In the future, a corrective fairness mechanism would kick in whenever any member state experiences a significant surge in arrivals, according to proposals that the European Commission is due to present Wednesday, which were seen by German daily Die Welt.

This mechanism would foresee the distribution of asylum seekers to other member states according to a distribution key. Those who refuse to participate could be fined 250,000 euros (287,000 dollars) per rejected applicant, Die Welt wrote.

The money would go to those countries that end up processing the asylum requests.

The proposal would, however, keep in place the Dublin criterion under which asylum seekers file their request in their first country of arrival in the bloc.

Last month, the commission had also floated a more radical option, under which the Dublin system would be replaced by a central mechanism, assigning asylum seekers to member states according to their size, wealth and absorption capacity.

Asylum issues are highly sensitive and have triggered a populist backlash in several member states. Some Central European countries have refused attempts to make them take in refugees, while a one-off scheme to redistribute 160,000 asylum seekers within the bloc has barely taken off.

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