Brussels is setting itself up for a standoff with member states over plans to distribute new claimants across the bloc. Currently, the so-called Dublin rules cause most claims to be made in Greece and Italy.
The European Commission is scheduled on Wednesday to propose major changes to asylum rules in the 28 EU member states.
The bloc's executive had originally planned to scrap a part of the so-called Dublin agreement, which insists that refugees claim asylum in the first EU country they enter.
But despite long-time complaints by southern EU states that they are overburdened by the numbers of new arrivals, EU commissioners are expected to keep the controversial policy in place.
Instead, two EU sources told the Reuters news agency that the Commission would now issue a legislative proposal retaining the "first country" principle while including
a central scheme to spread claimants around Europe.
The sources said that would give frontline states the chance to relocate asylum seekers to other EU countries if arrivals on their borders were too high.
Sanctions for non-compliance
Member states would face hefty fines if they refuse to take migrants. According to German daily "Die Welt," which reported that it had obtained the draft proposal, the penalties were envisioned at 250,000 euros ($287,000) per rejected applicant.
Despite the current high levels of migration, some Central European countries have refused attempts to make them take in refugees. Ex-communist states in particular are unlikely to welcome the changes. They've long argued that their homogeneous societies are ill equipped to take in large numbers of migrants, especially from the Middle East or Africa.
Meanwhile, a one-off scheme to redistribute 160,000 asylum seekers within the bloc has barely taken off.
Any proposal will need to win the backing of a majority of the 28 EU states as well as the European Parliament for it to be enacted and EU officials and diplomats do not expect a swift agreement.