Brussels to propose overhaul of EU asylum system: Report

(From left) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Brussels on March 6, 2016, the eve of an EU-Turkey summit on the migrant crisis.
(From left) German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte in Brussels on March 6, 2016, the eve of an EU-Turkey summit on the migrant crisis.PHOTO: AFP

LONDON (AFP) - Brussels is to propose centralising claims for asylum in the European Union as it struggles to address Europe's biggest migration crisis since World War II, the Financial Times reported.

The European Commission will make the proposal as part of a radical overhaul of refugee policy to be announced at a summit of EU leaders on March 17, the newspaper reported on Sunday (March 6), citing draft reform options.

"According to draft reform options seen by the Financial Times, responsibility for all asylum claims could be shifted to the European Asylum Support Office," a EU agency, it said.

Currently, asylum seekers must lodge claims in the first EU country they arrive in, a rule that has been undermined since German Chancellor Angela Merkel decided not to enforce it last year.

The report comes ahead of a meeting of European leaders in Brussels to discuss the crisis, which has seen 1.2 million asylum seekers fleeing war in Syria and upheaval across the Middle East, Asia and Africa land in the EU last year.

The influx has threatened the bloc's passport-free Schengen zone after several countries closed their borders.

Previous attempts to distribute refugees between EU member states stalled due to disagreements, and any plan to revive the idea could prove politically difficult in Britain where fierce campaigning is underway ahead of a June referendum on the country's continued membership of the bloc.

Immigration and the ability to control its borders is a red hot issue in the debate.