Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou travelled to Belgium on Monday to take part in a European Union inter-ministerial meeting regarding asylum and migration.

All 27 ministers responsible for migration and asylum matters from the EU’s member states are set to be present at the meeting, which will discuss matters including the EU’s new migration and asylum pact and other issues related to migration.

In addition, ministers from various member states will present their best practices and strategies for migration management.

Among them, Ioannou is expected to inform his counterparts on policies which have led to an increase in the number of migrants being returned from Cyprus to their countries of origin, with 3,000 having been returned by April 15.

The summit will be the first meeting of EU ministers responsible for migration since Cyprus announced it would suspend its processing of asylum claims for applicants of Syrian origin earlier this month.

That statement was walked back to mean that Cyprus would now wait the maximum time allowed of 21 months before processing their claims.

Cyprus has also been at the fore of efforts to have parts of Syria declared safe, with both Ioannou and President Nikos Christodoulides championing the idea.

The Cyprus News Agency (CNA) claimed earlier this month that “around ten” EU member states now support the government’s plan to declare parts of Syria as safe, with Nicosia planning to host a conference in May on the matter aimed at pressuring the European Commission into a decision.

Ioannou had earlier in the month embarked on a European tour to gather support for the plan this week, meeting with his Czech, Danish, and Greek counterparts on consecutive days.

Danish Immigration Minister Kaare Dybvad Bek told Ioannou on Wednesday that the time has come to examine the real facts in Syria to allow states to carry out returns under specific and strict conditions.”

He added that he recognises the “enormous pressure on Cyprus due to the massive flows of migrants of Syrian origin.”

The following day, Czech Interior Minister Vit Rakusan agreed to create a joint Cypriot and Czech factfinding mission to Syria, with the aim of designating parts of the country as safe.

Ioannou’s final port of call was Athens, where he met Greek Migration Minister Dimitris Kairidis. There, he announced the creation of a group of EU member states which will focus on the matter of declaring parts of Syria safe, and that Greece would be part of that group.

Previously, Austria had thrown its weight behind Cyprus’ plan to declare parts of Syria as safe in March.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, a spokesperson for the Austrian interior ministry said Minister Gerhard Karner had told the European Union’s justice and affairs council that “deportations to safe areas in Syria should be possible again in the medium term.”

However, EU member states have not been unanimous in their support for Cyprus’ plan. The Cypriot interior ministry had indicated in March that the Swedish government had offered its support for the plan, but the Swedish government refuted this claim.

A spokesperson for Sweden’s EU Affairs minister told the Cyprus Mail the claim had been a “misunderstanding”.

“We have heard similar proposals raised but it is not something that Sweden has taken a position on,” the spokesperson added.