Peter Sutherland, the UN Secretary General's special representative on international migration, bemoaned EU leaders' failure to approve a plan to share a total of 60,000 would-be refugees, mainly from Syria and Eritrea, across the 28-nation bloc.
With more than 500 million citizens, the EU could easily absorb more than a few tens of thousands of people fleeing conflict, he argued.
Sutherland was also critical of plans for a naval operation against people traffickers.
"Don't criminalise the people who are on the boats. They are just trying to escape. Pretending that sending teams to blow up or sink boats is a military solution to a human problem, it's rubbish.
We need far more and we are only at the first steps to finding ways of dealing with what is going to be a continuing major issue for public policy throughout the European union for a forseeable future. It is not going away and there is a humanitarian and moral obligation to do something about it."