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Europe’s passport-free travel zone looks set to be suspended for two years after EU ministers demanded a stop to the flow of migrants.

Brussels was instructed to suspend the Schengen zone to allow more border checks. 

Officials are working on plans to lock Greece out of the travel area because the country has failed to stop or register hundreds of thousands of migrants, the Times reported.

The European Commission will now work on emergency measures for a new system of frontier controls to prevent migrants getting from Greece to Germany through the Balkans.

Officials are also studying a Belgian proposal to set up an EU detention camp on Greek territory for more than a 250,000 migrants while their asylum claims are processed.

The decision yesterday by European interior ministers came despite the commission pleading with them to preserve passport-free travel across 26 countries as the “union’s biggest ever achievement”.

There are temporary checks currently in place on the borders between Germany and Austria; Denmark and Germany; Sweden and Denmark; Austria and Slovenia; Austria and Hungary; and Slovenia and Croatia.

Klaas Dijkhoff, the Dutch migration minister who chaired acrimonious talks in Amsterdam, announced the decision to trigger “article 26” of the Schengen rules, allowing border controls to be extended for up to two years.

“Currently, the temporary border measures can be taken only for a period of six months. But the unprecedented influx of asylum seekers, which compelled member states to take these measures nationally, has not decreased yet,” he said.

“Member states invited the commission to prepare the legal and practical basis for the continuance of temporary border measures through article 26 of the Schengen border code.”

An EU official said: “If border controls were allowed to remain for two years, it is difficult to see that they would ever be removed.”

Home secretary, Theresa May, said: “We’re not part of Schengen. But we continue to look at ways in which we can work with other countries in the EU to strengthen our external border.”