Malta is involved in a bid to set up an automatic system for distributing migrants rescued in the Mediterranean between European countries, Italian media said on Thursday.
According to AFP, such a deal would put an end to the case-by-case negotiations over who will take those saved during the perilous crossing from North Africa, which have seen vulnerable asylum seekers trapped in limbo at sea for lengthy periods.
It will then be studied in more detail at a meeting of interior ministers on September 23 in Malta, ahead of a European summit in October in Luxembourg.
The Maltese government has this summer taken in a number of rescued migrants who have later been relocated to other European countries following ad-hoc negotiations between the countries.
Italy has reportedly thrown its weight behind the deal.
France and Germany have given their green light to the new system, which could also involve Malta, Luxembourg, Portugal, Romania and Spain, the Repubblica and Stampa dailies said.
Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte is expected to discuss the plan with France's President Emmanuel Macron when the latter visits Rome next week.
"There is great willingness to immediately reach even a temporary accord on the redistribution of migrants, which can then be fine tuned," Conte said Wednesday during a visit to Brussels to meet European Commission head Ursula von der Leyen.
He suggested EU countries that decline to take part could suffer financial penalties.
The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have refused in the past to take in any of those rescued at sea.
The automatic distribution system would be a temporary solution ahead of a revision of the so-called "Dublin regulation", which assigns responsibility for migrants to the nation of first entry.
The Repubblica daily said France and Germany were each willing to receive 25 percent of people plucked from flimsy dinghies in the Mediterranean.
Italy would take in another 10 percent -- a lower proportion because it has already hosted tens of thousands of new arrivals, it said.
Should the deal take off, Rome would agree to reopen its ports to vessels which save migrants at sea, reversing a hardline stance taken by the country's ex-interior minister Matteo Salvini last year.
The number of migrants landing on Italian shores between August 2018 and July 2019 was down 80 percent on the previous 12 months, the interior ministry said in a report published last month.