The Origin of ‘Refugee’ (Merriam-Webster)

The word originally referred to the Huguenots .

Refugee comes from a tangled web of related words, and though they show a certain family resemblance, these words are also fiercely independent. Their shared roots go all the way back to Latin, but refugee came directly from the French word réfugié with a very specific meaning: it referred to Protestants who fled France following the revocation in 1685 of the Edict of Nantes, the law that granted religious liberty and civil rights to the Protestant Huguenots for nearly a century. Over 400,000 French Protestants left France in the following years, many to Protestant England.

“Seeking asylum: The nightmare vision for Uganda’s Asians” (BBC – NEWS)

In 1972, or so the story goes, an important man had a dream. Not an inspiring dream like Martin Luther King, but a vision that would spark one of the cruellest episodes of the 20th Century.

The man was General Idi Amin, ruler of Uganda in Africa. The dream itself – where he was told by God to cleanse his country of foreigners – may just be an urban myth spread by his supporters, but his actions were real. Out of the blue he ordered all people of south Asian origin to be expelled from the country, or face concentration-style camps.

“Government of Canada honours national historic significance of the Refugees of the 1956 Hungarian Revolution” (Parks Canada)

In 1956 and 1957, Canada received more than 37,500 refugees who fled Hungary after Soviet troops marched on Budapest to crush a revolution that sought political reform and independence from the Soviet Union. Spurred by popular sympathy, the Canadian government acted quickly to select, transport, and resettle people in cooperation with non-profit organizations; a successful and unprecedented process which later established an important model for the reception of future refugees to Canada.

“Cuando 12.000 sin papeles españoles llegaron a la próspera Venezuela de los años 50”, por David Placer.

Más de 120 barcos canarios ilegales cruzaron el Atlántico entre 1948 y 1952 en búsqueda de una vida más próspera. Los últimos supervivientes relatan un viaje lleno de penurias, sin agua ni comida y a merced de los temporales. Debían pasar la cuarentena en La Orchila, pero en pocos meses ganaban ‘fortunas’ y se adaptaban con gran facilidad al país donde ‘todo era demasiado barato’.

“Canada was warned of the incoming Holocaust. We turned away 900 Jewish refugees anyway” (by Terry Glavin).

“Canada knew. Britain knew. The U.S. knew. They all did because a Jewish trade unionist warned them what was coming. Today marks the 75th anniversary of his suicide”.

“Exhibit confronts Canada’s rejection of Jewish refugees fleeing Nazis in 1939” (by Omar Sachedina)

“Fleeing Nazi persecution in 1939, more than 900 Jewish refugees boarded the German ocean liner St. Louis. They expected to find a safe haven across the Atlantic — instead, they were denied entry to Cuba, then the United States and, finally, Canada. The exiles returned to Europe, where many were killed in the Holocaust. Through photographs, texts and audiovisual materials, St. Louis – Ship of Fate explores the circumstances that led to this human rights tragedy, including the rise of Nazism, international indifference to the plight of refugees, and the dark history of Canadian immigration and anti-Semitism during the 1930s” (Canadian War Museum).