EU interior ministers will consider plans to finance camps in Africa where the U.N. refugee agency and aid groups would process migrants to prevent them trying to cross the Mediterranean to Europe.
The sea crossing from Libya to Italy, operated by people smugglers, is now the main route for migrants seeking better lives in wealthy Europe, but the EU wants to shut it down and admit only refugees. More than 4,500 people are known to have drowned last year alone trying to make the crossing.
The European Union has deployed a naval mission in the Mediterranean and is training the Libyan coastguard to cut the numbers attempting the journey. Now it also wants to return migrants plucked from the sea to where they came from.
Since the influx of more than a million people in 2015, many of them fleeing the Syrian conflict, the EU has tightened border controls, making it increasingly hard for migrants and asylum seekers alike to enter the 28-nation bloc.
It is also offering money and assistance to countries along the migration routes in the hope that fewer people will seek to leave their homes or will be stopped on the way before they embark for Europe.