BRUSSELS — The European Union is weighing whether to send immigration officers abroad to assess the needs of would-be migrants as increasing numbers of people try to reach the EU illegally.
EU migration spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud said Friday that "the plan is perhaps to have immigration officers in some countries."
The officers could establish what legal avenues of migration might be open for some people and whether they need urgent help.
Bertaud said the EU is considering a test phase in Niger "to look at people who need protecting immediately."
The EU's executive Commission outlined this week a new strategy to tackle migration as thousands continue to make the perilous voyage across the Mediterranean in search of a better life. Part of the strategy is to improve legal ways for people to come to Europe.
EU migration chief Dimitris Avramopoulos said Wednesday that some asylum seekers could be in a position to apply for asylum while they are still in their country of origin.
More than 276,000 migrants entered the EU illegally last year, and conflict-torn Libya is the major jumping off point for people aiming to reach southern Europe.
Italy, which is on the forefront of the migration wave, is concerned that extremists might be slipping into the country along with migrants.
"Libya is going to be the key element in managing migration," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini told reporters in Riga, Latvia.
Mogherini said the first priority is to have a stable Libyan authority to discuss migration issues with, and for it to then sign up to the Geneva refugee convention.
"If that is not dealt with, not only in the refugee camps but also in the hosting communities, there is going to be a bomb ready to explode in terms of social and also security challenges," she warned.
Casert reported from Riga, Latvia.