EU governments have agreed to step up deportations of migrants deemed to be illegal.
Creating a border guard force has also been on the agenda at a meeting of interior ministers in Luxembourg.
It comes amid a surge in refugees fleeing Syria’s civil war.
“Guarding the external borders of the European Union is priority number one. That’s the most important recognition for today. And of course the activities to support Frontex (EU border agency) to increase its person (staff), this is most important too.”
Ministers also agreed to exert more “leverage” on African and other states to make them accept citizens who are refused entry to Europe.
In recent years, less than 40 percent of people who’ve had their asylum claims rejected have actually then left the EU.
“We have always said that we need to protect those who are in need of international help. But those who don’t need this kind of protection, will have to return to their countries of origin,” said Jean Asselborn, Luxembourg Foreign Affairs Minister.
An EU plan agreed last month will see so-called hot spots set up in countries such as Greece and Italy, to screen incoming migrants more carefully. But doubts are being cast on their workability.
Speaking from Luxembourg, euronews reporter Sandor Zsiros said: “From the latest statement it’s clear that the migration policy of open doors is coming to an end in Europe. Leaders will handle the migration pressures outside of Europe’s borders, or by protecting its external borders.”
The interior ministers were due to be joined later on Thursday by EU foreign ministers and delegations from Balkan states, Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon for talks on stemming migrant flows that have plunged the bloc into crisis.
The influx has divided members over how to secure the EU external borders and how to share responsibility for housing refugees.
The meetings are part of efforts to implement a package of measures put forward by EU officials over the past six months.
They involve the start of negotiations this week with Turkey, which has more than half of the four million Syrian refugees. The talks aims to try and discourage people from travelling.