The EU has handed France £3.6 million to build a better camp for migrants attempting to cross to Britain.
The five million euro of funding will help create improved facilities for around 1,500 of those clustered at the makeshift Calais site dubbed The Jungle.
In total some 5,000 are said to be living in squalid conditions at the existing camp.
But the move, announced by European Commission vice president Frans Timmermans during a visit to Calais, is likely to prove controversial.
It comes after an extraordinary meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers was called for two weeks' time in Brussels to discuss migration.
In a statement, Luxembourg - which holds the rotating presidency of the EU Council - said the issues had recently taken on "unprecedented proportions".
"In order to assess the situation on the ground, the political actions under way and to discuss the next steps in order to strengthen the European response, the Luxembourg minister for immigration and asylum Jean Asselborn decided to convene an extraordinary JHA Council," the statement added.
In a joint statement with counterparts from Paris and Berlin earlier, Home Secretary Theresa May suggested reception centres were needed at key arrival points and a list of "safe" countries should be agreed to speed up asylum decisions.
Greece, Italy and other border countries are struggling to cope with record numbers of new arrivals, many seeking refuge from the conflict in Syria, with a surge over the summer taking the year's total to beyond 340,000.