The EU appealed to Arab states Wednesday for closer cooperation against traffickers exploiting migrants trying to reach its shores, warning that the same networks were peddling arms and narcotics.

EU Neighbourhood and Enlargement Commissioner Oliver Varhelyi warned of a "growing risk of large population movements across the Arab world" resulting from conflict, climate change or sheer proximity to Europe.

"We need to cooperate more and better in combating the criminal organisations engaging in migrant smuggling," Varhelyi said at the opening of the first European-Arab conference on border security.

"These criminal organisations breed corruption, destabilise our societies and cause immense human suffering. Moreover, they are often also engaging in the smuggling of weapons and drugs and sometimes fund and equip terrorist organisations," he said at the two-day meeting in Amman attended by 44 Arab and European delegations.

Varhelyi said the fight against people trafficking was one of the priorities of a seven billion euro Economic and Investment Plan already unveiled for the region by the European Union.

A new surge in numbers of migrant arrivals has hit the bloc's southern and eastern members this year, sparking growing divisions about how to respond.