Italy, Greece, Croatia and Malta might be sanctioned for flouting criteria laid down in the Dublin Convention, which stipulates that the EU state where an asylum seeker first enters is responsible for taking fingerprints and registering asylum applications, Rai News reported, citing diplomatic sources in Brussels.
A deal agreed among EU states in September to relocate refugees across Europe was dependent on countries including Italy and Greece, which have borne the brunt of arrivals by sea, setting up “hotspots” to swiftly process asylum requests.
But the bitterly contested plan has ground to a halt, with less than 150 reportedly leaving Italy over the past couple of months.
Some 80 refugees were supposed to leave the country each day as part of a plan that would see 40,000 relocated over two years.
The Sicilian port town of Pozzallo became the first official "hotspot" at the end of November, with new arrivals obliged to provide their fingerprints, or be taken to a detention centre to await expulsion from Italy.
One of the issues for Italy has been migrants' refusal to go through the identification process.
“They don't want to be here, otherwise they would have to stay in our country under the accords,” Interior Minister Angelino Alfano said during a TV interview in June.
Of the 122,000 migrants who arrived in Italy between January and September, only 80,000 agreed to be identified, according to figures from the Italian police.
The Dublin regulation also forces migrants to stay in the country where they submitted their application while it is being processed – which, in Italy especially, can take months, or even years.
Some 4,600 boat migrants were rescued by the Italian coastguard off the coast of Libya over the weekend.