"The migratory situation in the European Union (EU) is strained", the member states' Justice and Home Affairs Ministers agreed at their Council meeting here.
"There is an urgent need to strengthen the external borders, increase returns, and prevent irregular migration," they said, according to a statement issued by the Swedish Presidency of the Council of the EU.
"Difficulties in returning third country nationals who are not entitled to stay in the EU is a major challenge for many member states," Xinhua news agency quoted the statement as saying.
"Current return rates are not acceptable, and negatively affect the reception capacity, as well as the legitimacy of (the EU states') national asylum and migration systems," it added.
The Ministers agreed on the need for more effective cooperation with countries of origin, and for comprehensive migration partnerships and effective readmission agreements with third countries to prevent irregular migration and improve returns.
They agreed that the EU should use both positive incentives and restrictive measures and that all relevant policy areas, such as visa policy, development cooperation, trade and diplomatic relations, must be used.
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The EU member states also support the introduction of restrictive visa measures in relation to third countries that do not cooperate on returns, the statement said.
The two-day informal meeting, which also addressed the fight against organised crime in the digital age, ends on Friday.
Since the height of the migration crisis in 2015, the EU has implemented measures to control external borders and migration flows better.
As a result, irregular arrivals to the EU have been reduced by more than 90 per cent.
The EU and its member states are intensifying efforts to establish an effective, humanitarian and safe European migration policy.
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