A ‘safe zone’ refers to an area established in armed conflict for the purposes of protecting civilians. This article provides the first legal analysis of whether safe zones can be invoked as
a ground for refusing asylum. It examines the concept of the Internal Protection Alternative (IPA), which posits that an individual is not a refugee if there is a safe place within his/ her country where he/ she can relocate. It clarifies the applicable criteria in the IPA inquiry, and uses three case studies to illustrate that safe zones can only qualify as lawful IPAs in exceptional circumstances.