Migrants arriving in southern Europe from Africa and the Middle East will be spread across the EU through a quota system, according to plans by the European Commission.
The EC will today announce details of its controversial plans to relocate tens of thousands of migrants. Some 40,000 asylum seekers would be spread across the EU countries through a quota system.
The British government says that it will opt out of the relocation plans.
The idea of using quotas to resettle those who have made it to Europe has caused controversy in some EU states.
France, Spain, Hungary, Slovakia and Estonia have all voiced concerns.
The quota plan is in addition to moves announced earlier this month by the EU for a voluntary scheme to settle 20,000 people fleeing conflict who are currently living outside the EU.
More than 1,800 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in 2015 – a 20-fold increase on the same period in 2014.
Some 60,000 people have already tried to make the perilous crossing this year, the UN estimates.
Many are trying to escape conflict or poverty in countries such as Syria, Eritrea, Nigeria and Somalia.
The Commission, the EU’s executive body, is on Wednesday due to publish the full details of what is being called the European Agenda on Migration.
Among the proposals is an action plan to stop smuggling gangs, if necessary by military force, inside Libyan territorial waters.
The issue likely to cause most controversy is the mandatory quota system, whereby all 28 EU countries, including the UK, would be allocated a specific number of asylum seekers currently in Italy, Greece and Malta.
British International Development Secretary Justine Greening criticised the approach, arguing that it would only serve to encourage more migrants to risk their lives in unseaworthy boats.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Zeid Ra’ad al Hussein said European quotas to resettle refugees within the EU were “wholly inadequate to the magnitude of this crisis,” he said.
Some 7,000 people have been pulled out of the Mediterranean in the first three days of this month alone, he said.
UN chief Ban Ki-moon has also urged Europe to do more to help migrants, calling for search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean to be “further strengthened”.
“I’m urging European leaders to address this issue in a more comprehensive way and a collective way,” he said, adding that the “roots” of the problem in countries of origin must also be addressed.