Refugee: ‘Seeker of shelter’, protestants in a Catholic land

It has become obvious that different people use the word refugee to mean slightly different groups. So we thought we’d have a look at exactly what the word really means.

First off, the obvious, refugee has its roots in the word ‘refuge’ meaning ‘shelter from danger’. This is itself a french word and was coined as ‘refugier’ (seeker of shelter from danger) to refer to the French Huguenots; long story, but basically protestants who were given rights in a catholic nation (France), so moved in on mass (pun intended). Refugee was first applied to those fleeing from war during world war 1, where it was applied to the people of Flanders who headed west to escape the central powers and gain safety in allied territory.


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