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Creating safe zones and safe corridors in conflict

Gilbert, G and Rusch, AM (2017) Creating safe zones and safe corridors in conflict. UNSW, Sydney. Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law.


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The conflict in Syria has prompted renewed calls for so-called ?safe zones? and ?safe corridors? to prevent people from needing to seek protection abroad as refugees, and to encourage refugees to return home. Given the inherent dangers that arise from trying to leave a conflict zone and travelling onwards to seek asylum, the idea of creating safe zones within States has been put forward as a positive humanitarian alternative. Yet, there are a number of legal and practical preconditions that must be met for safety to be guaranteed. The reality of conflict today means that in all but the most extreme circumstances ? where flight is impossible ? safe zones cannot be a substitute for asylum in another country. They may be the best response to people trapped in a conflict zone, but that is all. They do not provide true ?protection? as envisaged by international refugee law. Furthermore, the law is underdeveloped and the practice is too erratic and random for safe zones to be a proper response to a humanitarian crisis. If States in the global north want to spare refugees the dangers of irregular flight, they should establish proper pathways to safety through humanitarian and migration channels, and push for peace in those areas of the world where conflict is rife.1 Safe corridors could provide that route out ? as well as operating to allow those trapped in conflict zones to carry on with their lives by safely accessing work, education, markets and health care, to the extent possible. This policy brief begins by asking some fundamental questions about safe zones and safe corridors, and sketching the complexity of the international legal frameworks that apply. It then briefly examines the history of the law and practice of safe zones and safe corridors, before analysing the preconditions to their creation, their qualities and character, how they are accessed, and how protection and other human rights can be assured. Finally, it considers the responsibility and accountability of various international actors with respect to safe zones and safe corridors. The existence of different terms to describe the concepts, and the interplay of several different sub-branches of international law, make the analysis more complicated, but the conclusion reached is that in all but the most extreme circumstances ? where flight is impossible ? safe zones can never provide a substitute for asylum. They cannot provide the same degree of protection that a safe third country can. By contrast, safe corridors can enable people to flee to a place of safety, and at the very least can help those unable to leave by facilitating access to vital services.

Item Type: Other
Subjects: K Law > KZ Law of Nations
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities
Faculty of Humanities > Law, School of
SWORD Depositor: Elements
Depositing User: Elements
Date Deposited: 11 Jul 2017 10:20
Last Modified: 06 Jan 2022 13:20

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