International refugee law is designed only to provide a back-up source of protection to seriously at-risk persons. Its purpose is not to displace the primary rule that individuals should look to their state of nationality for protection, but simply to provide a safety net in the event a state fails to meet its basic protective responsibilities.1 As observed by the Supreme Court of Canada, "[t]he international community was meant to be a forum of second resort for the persecuted, a 'surrogate,' approachable upon the failure of local protection. The rationale upon which international refugee law rests is not simply the need to give shelter to those persecuted by the state, but ... to provide refuge to those whose home state cannot or does not afford them protection from persecution."2
Hathaway, James C. "International Refugee Law: The Michigan Guidelines on the Internal Protection Alternative." Mich. J. Int'l L. 21, no. 1 (1999): 131-3.