ROME — Europe’s splintered leaders proved during an intense summit this week that they could still unify behind one big idea: pushing this continent’s migration challenges farther from its shores.

In an agreement reached Friday, the European Union’s members said they would explore ways to build new centers, probably in Africa, where migrants could be screened for asylum – and from where only legitimate refugees might move on to Europe.

The idea echoes discussions elsewhere in the developed world, including in the United States, on how to outsource the contentious asylum process and cut down on the flow of arrivals. In Europe’s case, the proposal also broadens an existing strategy of using African countries as partners that are willing to crack down on smugglers and intercept migrant vessels.

The European Union says the processing centers would reduce the number of people who attempt to cross the deadly Mediterranean Sea and would better enable a triaging of the crisis – separating the neediest refugees from migrants seeking economic opportunities. Remote vetting would also let the EU avoid the quandary of what to do with migrants whose asylum applications are denied but who come from counties with which Europe doesn’t have deportation agreements.

Many migrants find themselves stuck in Ventimiglia, Italy, unable to cross to France, where police officers patrol the border. The European Union says processing centers in Africa would reduce the number of asylum-seekers attempting to cross the Mediterranean Sea. The Washington Post/Laurence Geai

But critics, including some politicians and analysts, say that Europe risks abdicating its responsibility at a time when migrant flows are drastically reduced from their 2015 peak, and that it would be inviting additional challenges with facilities hosted by poorer and less-stable countries, where people – including minors – could languish in unsafe conditions.

“Europe is really rolling the dice,” said Jill Goldenziel, an associate professor at the Marine Corps University, who is writing a book on the global migration crisis. “Europe would be required to maintain its own standards. It is incredibly hard to guarantee that, and particularly hard in a place like Libya or other developing countries that don’t adhere to the same human rights standards.”

In recent weeks, U.S. and Mexican officials have been discussing a somewhat different “safe third country” agreement, which could require Central American migrants crossing through Mexico to apply for settlement there, and allow the United States to send back asylum seekers who do not do so.