It is a last-ditch attempt to save Schengen. The European Commission has unveiled a timetable to restore the fraying open border zone by the end of this year, as it scrambles to stem the migrant crisis.
The EU executive is warning that a failure to do so would cost the European economy up to 18 billion euros.
Deploying a common European Border and Coast Guard before August is a priority.
“We cannot have free movement internally if we cannot manage our external borders effectively,” said Dimitris Avramopoulos, EU migration commissioner.
“The ones who use to come over to Europe who are in need of international protection will have it, the others have to be returned.”
Europe’s migrant crisis shows no signs of abating. Despite bad weather, more than 135-thousand people have already made dangerous sea crossings to Europe since the start of this year – according to the UN refugee agency.
On Monday, there will be an emergency EU summit with Turkey on the influx.
The UNHCR is recommending a range of actions, including on relocations, the return of economic migrants and support for emergency efforts in Greece.
“The UNHCR will be tired to hear about irregular migrants coming to Greece. The reality is that 48 percent of the people arriving in Greece are Syrians, most of them are coming from Aleppo,” said Vincent Cochetel, from UNHCR Europe.
“We expect on Monday to see an agreement between the EU on Turkey, on the positive progress report on the implementation of the Joint Action Plan of Action between Europe and Turkey.”
The European Commission has announced the first payouts from a three billion euro fund for Turkey – aimed at helping it to cope with the roughly 2.5 million Syrian migrants on its soil.
Temporary border controls inside Schengen expire in May and would only be lifted if Greece, which has been overwhelmed with the influx, ensures proper border controls on its borders rather than wave people through to wealthier European states.