Explained: What are humanitarian corridors, and why they are important
- These agreements can be established with armed parties who agree to end hostilities within the corridors
- Local groups have also been known to set up a corridor sometimes
- These corridors were used quite frequently during the Bosnian War and Syrian Civil War
The Russian Defence Ministry has recently announced that it had reached an agreement with Ukrainian forces on evacuation routes to allow civilians to escape the strategic port of Mariupol in the southern part of the country and the eastern town of Volnovakha.
According to a Russian news agency, the Russian defence ministry said, "From 10 a.m. Moscow time (07:00 a.m. GMT), the Russian side announces a ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian corridors to permit civilians to escape Mariupol and Volnovakha."
With this, let us understand what humanitarian corridors are and who sets up the corridors.
What are humanitarian corridors?
A humanitarian corridor is a temporary demilitarised zone that enables safe passage of humanitarian aid into a crisis area or to get refugees out. A humanitarian corridor is defined and distinguished from humanitarian operations carried out in a larger or uncontrolled territory by its highly restricted, narrow space.
These corridors are established to reduce civilian casualties during a war, and both sides of an armed conflict must agree to it. The corridors can also be used to transport food or medical supplies to civilians trapped in a siege-like situation without access to essential commodities.
Humanitarian corridors can help in situations where a humanitarian crisis unfolds due to the international law of war being violated, resulting in a large-scale attack on civilians. These corridors were used quite frequently during the Bosnian War and Syrian Civil War.
Who sets up a corridor?
Most humanitarian corridors have been requested and negotiated under the charter of the United Nations (UN) since the 1990s. Local groups have also been known to set up a corridor sometimes. The sides to the dispute decide who has access to the corridors, however it is usually limited to neutral actors, the UN, or aid organisations.
This agreements can be established with armed parties who agree to end hostilities within the corridor. However, experts claim that they can also emerge spontaneously when civilians seek a passage to safety and are aided along the way by other civilians or state authorities.
Humanitarian corridors in past
Humanitarian corridors have a long history and have been used in a number of war and disaster situations. The Kindertransport of 1938–1939, in which Jewish children were evacuated from Nazi-controlled areas to the United Kingdom; the 1992–1995 relief corridor into the occupied Bosnian city of Sarajevo, which included an international airlift; and, most recently, the 2018 bus evacuation of civilians from Ghouta, Syria.
Many wars and conflicts, on the other hand, are believed to have seen demands for civilian corridors or a cease-fire fall on deaf ears. The UN, for example, has so far failed to reach an agreement in Yemen's prolonged conflict.