What The FAQ: What are humanitarian corridors and why is Ukraine opposing the formation of some of them?

Have you heard of humanitarian corridors before? These are established during times of war to allow civilians to evacuate themselves or receive essential aid
Pic: Edex Live
Pic: Edex Live

The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine has given rise to several concerns, the most magnified of which is the attempt of people trying to evacuate the war-torn region. At this time, the proposal to establish humanitarian corridors would have been a welcome sign for the country but some of them have been swiftly opposed by Ukrainian officials. What is the reason behind this? And what exactly is a humanitarian corridor? Who negotiates the formation of one? We cover all the bases in this explainer.

What really is a humanitarian corridor?
They are essentially a momentary pause in war hostilities in a defined area, meant to limit civilian casualties by allowing them to evacuate without harm, if they are willing to, as well as enabling a conduit for aid like food and medical services towards the areas of conflict. They can exist from anywhere between mere hours to even months. Ideally, they need to be accompanied by cease-fires, security guarantees and diplomatic trade-offs too. 

Who sets up a corridor?
In most instances, it is the United Nations that negotiates the formation of a humanitarian corridor. On a few occasions, they have been set up by local groups. The rules with regards to a corridor must be agreed upon by all parties embroiled in the conflict. 

When and where was it first employed during a conflict?
The history of humanitarian corridors goes back to World War II when children were rescued from Nazi-occupied regions via trains. The first corridors mandated under the vigil of the UN was during the Bosnian War between 1992 and 1994, to provide civilians in Sarajevo access to lifesaving supplies, although it sparked a huge controversy when the Bosnian Serb army murdered and raped thousands of non-Serb, Muslim women in those areas. Sometimes, conflicts come into scrutiny due to the non-establishment of humanitarian corridors during a conflict, for instance in Iraq and the Islamic State in 2014.

Where are the humanitarian corridors being set up in Ukraine?
The corridors being proposed by Russia would allow Ukrainian civilians to escape to Russia and its ally, Belarus. This has seen fast condemnation by Ukraine, terming it as 'immoral' and as an attempt to manipulate western countries. Ukraine Deputy PM Iryna Vereshchuk said that only 9 of the 14 proposed humanitarian routes were functional during the last 24 hours in Ukraine. Last week, thousands of civilians, including medical students from India, were evacuated through a humanitarian corridor towards Poltava in central Ukraine.

What is the latest instruction from India's Ministry of External Affairs on the usage of humanitarian corridors?
The Indian embassy in Ukraine issued an advisory on Tuesday urging "all stranded Indian nationals" to make use of the "humanitarian corridor for evacuation". The Indian nationals have been advised to avail the services of the following round-the-clock helplines in Ukraine: +38 0997300428, +38 0997300483, +38 0933980327, +38 0635917881 and +38 0935046170.

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