(Beirut) – Human Rights Watch today released a question-and-answer document on “safe zones” and the armed conflict in Syria. A number of leaders and governments have suggested that creating safe zones in Syria near the Turkish or other borders could protect civilians while stemming the flow of refugees from the conflict.

“Safe zones are billed as a way to spare civilians the horrors of war, but all too often they become magnets for the fighting,” said James Ross, legal and policy director at Human Rights Watch. “Warring parties contemplating a safe zone in Syria should fully understand the dangers involved and not create them as a quick and easy way to keep refugees out of their countries.”

The question-and-answer document answers questions regarding the international law applicable to safe zones; highlights dangers of past safe zones, such as in Bosnia; discusses the problems safe zones cause for refugees and asylum seekers; and examines what warring parties would need to do to make safe zones safer.