Legal scholarship, foreign policy decision-making and on-the-ground experience came together in a panel discussion on 7 June to launch the Andrew & Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugees new Policy Brief, Creating safe zones and safe corridors in conflict situations: Providing protection at home or preventing the search for asylum? 

With nearly half a million people killed in the on-going conflict in Syria – and millions more fleeing across the borders – the EU, the US and countries in the Astana process (Turkey, Russia and Iran) have called for the creation of safe zones within Syria as a positive humanitarian alternative.

The law concerning safe zones is underdeveloped, however, and history shows they can do more harm than good. To inform the global debate, the Kaldor Centre Policy Brief examines critical, legal and practical concerns, including: What are the requirements to ensure that safe zones are ‘safe’? What law, if any, applies? Are safe zones in fact being proposed as a means to discourage would-be refugees from fleeing to other countries?

It was written for the Kaldor Centre by Geoff Gilbert, a Professor of Law at the University of Essex and a Visiting Professor at UNSW, and Anna Magdalena Rüsch.

Prof. Gilbert was joined on the panel by Paul White, from the UN interagency Protection Standby Capacity Project (ProCap) and Claire Elias, Director of Humanitarian Policy & Partnerships at the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

The rich discussion at Chatham House rules event indicated the Policy Brief was much needed to assist in creating internationally agreed language and criteria to protect the dignity of people caught up in crises.

The Policy Brief also prompted the op-ed, 'When is a safe zone safe?' and ABC Radio The World Today interview with Prof. Gilbert and Paul White