Turkey is on course to be handed visa-free travel to the European Union for its 75 million citizens, despite not meeting a series of key targets.
On Wednesday the European Commission is expected to recommended a radical loosening of travel conditions for the country.
The giveaway is part of a €6bn aid-for-deportations migration deal struck with Ankara, which has resulted in a steep fall in the number of refugees attempting to cross into Europe.
Turkey has warned that if it is not given the visa waiver – which will grant automatic access to the Schengen zone for up tourists for to 90 days – then it will “terminate” the migration deal.
That risks a risks a return to the chaos on the Aegean as thousands attempt to make the perilous journey, in the middle of the British referendum campaign. Since the deal came into force, crossings have fallen from several thousand a day to fewer than 100.
But EU sources admit that Turkey has only met around 60 of the 72 “benchmarks” it has set to unlock the visa-free travel rights.
It includes the universal introduction of tamper-proof biometric passports, without which Turks will not be able to use the scheme.
Reforms to terrorism laws, data protection measures and an anti-corruption drive also have not been delivered, the Financial Times reported.
European officials are now scrambling to sign off as many clauses as possible before the Wednesday deadline to make the recommendation. It was reported that Turkey chartered a private jet to lodge signed paperwork with the Strasbourg Council of Europe.
The proposal will then be presented to MEPs and national leaders at a summit on June 28, five days after Britain’s referendum.
Mina Andreeva, a commission spokeswoman, refused to comment on individual measures but said the Turkish have made “a lot of efforts over the past weeks and days to meet the criteria.”
Kosovo is also expected to be granted visa-free travel soon. Combined with recent recipients Georgia and Ukraine, it amounts to a significant relaxation of travel rules for 127 million people at a time when the EU is grappling to secure its external border against illegal migrants and the risk of terrorist infiltration.
Two other major announcements will come on Wednesday.
The Commission is expected to give Germany and Austria permission to extend border controls for another six months, following a report into the Greek border system. The countries need the green light to avoid being in breach of Schengen border rules.
In a move that could have profound implications for the UK, it is also expected to announce how the Dublin system of rules that oblige asylum seekers to be sent back to the first country they register in will be reformed.
The system lets Britain deport around 1,000 asylum seekers a year, but it has come under immense strain due to the influx into Greece and Italy.
One option being considered is to scrap this rule, and instead share out migrants according to a quota system based on a state’s size and economy. Even if Britain opted out of this, it could lose its removal powers under the first-country rule.
A second option is that the Dublin rules would remain in place during normal circumstances, but a quota scheme would be activated in the event of a major migration emergency.