Africa's envoy to the European Union warned Wednesday that EU plans to process migrants in the countries they leave or transit on their way to Europe are "a dangerous approach.''
The EU is trying to persuade Niger, Tunisia, Egypt, Morocco and Turkey to pre-screen migrants and has launched a pilot project to send immigration officers abroad to help assess asylum demands.
African Union Ambassador Ajay Kumar Bramdeo told EU lawmakers that by outsourcing migrant management, the EU would be "shirking its own responsibility in receiving refugees and migrants, also in footing the bill for managing and controlling migration.''
More than 280,000 people entered the EU illegally last year, according to figures released Tuesday by the EU's border agency Frontex.
Thousands have taken to rickety boats from conflict-torn Libya and Europe's coast guards are unable to cope.
Frustrated by its inability to handle the migration wave, the EU has sought to tackle the problem at its source, mainly in Africa.
The head of the International Organization for Migration's EU office, Eugenio Ambrosi, cautioned against any rush to set up processing centers.
"The priority has to be about protecting people and not protecting borders,'' he said.
Ambrosi noted that some EU nations have been unwilling to share the costs and responsibility of housing asylum seekers with partners like Greece, Italy and Malta, which are bearing the brunt of the migration wave. Germany and Sweden are also hosting many refugees from Iraq and Syria.
"It's a little bizarre that we ask other countries outside Europe to show solidarity toward Europe in sharing the burden when within Europe we still haven't got there,'' he said.