German ministry proposes dropping 'open door' refugee policy
Germany wants to stop people from reaching Europe's shores by intercepting them at sea and returning them to camps in Africa.
The German Interior Ministry said the European Union should adopt the Australian-style system where refugees apply for asylum from the camps, reported Welt am Sonntag newspaper.
The move would mark a significant shift in Germany's "open door" refugee policy.
"The elimination of the prospect of reaching the European coast could convince migrants to avoid embarking on the life-threatening and costly journey in the first place," a ministry spokeswoman told the paper.
"The goal must be to remove the basis for people-smuggling organisations and to save migrants from the life-threatening journey."
The refugee death toll from the Mediterranean crossing has hit a record high this year, with more than 4,200 lives lost in 2016 so far, according to the International Organisation for Migration.
The German ministry's proposal calls for people - the majority setting off from the coast of Libya - to be picked up along the perilous route and sent to Tunisia, Egypt or other northern African countries to apply for asylum there.
Once an asylum application is accepted, refugees can then be transferred safely to Europe, it said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has come under fire for the country's liberal refugee policy with her conservative Christian Democrats party losing votes to the Alternative for Germany party amid a wave of anti-immigration sentiment.
Germany received the highest number of asylum applications in 2015, with more than 476,000 refugees seeking a home there.
The ministry said there were no concrete plans or discussions at EU-level about the proposal, but opposition politicians have criticised the plan.
Bernd Riexinger, head of the opposition Left party, said it would be "a humanitarian scandal and a further step toward elimination of the right to asylum," the paper reported.
He said asylum applications should be filed in Germany to ensure applicants had access to legal help, adding Australia's treatment of refugees was "absolutely unacceptable".