Article published on the 2009-10-30 Latest update 2009-10-30 14:58 TU
Opponents argue the measure is too repressive and will present a poor image of Europe.
The draft proposal, which may be altered by the assembled heads of state and government, calls for an "examination of the possibility of regular chartering financed by Frontex, the EU border service, of return flights".
Several delegations deemed the measure in need of amendment, with one diplomat arguing "the proposal will not pass like that".
The idea of charter flights came originally from the French, with support from Italy, one of Europe's frontline countries where illegal immigrants land after perilous journeys from Africa and the Middle East.
France and Britain organised a joint flight last week to send three Afghan citizens to Kabul from France and 24 from Britain. Human rights groups protested angrily to the move.
French Immigration Minister Eric Besson recently spoke in favour of more such joint flights "under the European banner" for the forced return of immigrants to their country of origin.
Frontex is tasked with patrolling 42,000 kilometres of the EU's sea borders and 8,800 kilometres of land frontier.