Many refugee claimants are not based on situations where the state is the agent of persecution. Rather, the source of risk is a quasi-governmental authority or private actors. In such cases, the issue turns to one of the adequacy of state protection.
Ward v. Canada
The leading decision on the issue of state protection in the context of refugee and pre-removal risk assessment decisions is the Supreme Court of Canada decision Canada (Attorney General) v. Ward,  2 S.C.R. 689. There, the Supreme Court of Canada held that a state’s inability to protect its citizens is the crucial element in determining whether a claimant’s fear of persecution is well-founded as it determines the reasonableness of his or her unwillingness to seek the protection of his or her state of nationality.
Specifically, the Supreme Court noted that:
Having established that the claimant has a fear, the Board is, in my view, entitled to presume that persecution will be likely, and the fear well-founded, if there is an absence of state protection. The presumption goes to the heart of the inquiry, which is whether there is a likelihood of persecution. But I see nothing wrong with this, if the Board is satisfied that there is a legitimate fear, and an established inability of the state to assuage those fears through effective protection
The Court went on to note that:
Only situations in which state protection “might reasonably have been forthcoming”, will the claimant’s failure to approach the state for protection defeat his claim. Put another way, the claimant will not meet the definition of “Convention refugee” where it is objectively unreasonable for the claimant not to have sought the protection of his home authorities;Read more ›
People are often dismissive when they hear of refugee claimants arriving with stories of persecution at the hands of militias or gangs. This especially appears to be the case when the refugee claimants originate from a democratic country. Why, they ask, do these people not simply go to the police in their respective home countries?Read more ›