What is a Refugee? A Look at the Word and Meaning

So, what is a refugee, exactly? According to Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the official definition of “refugee” is “a person who flees to a foreign country or power to escape danger or persecution.” Also, “refuge,” meaning “a safe haven”, is the root of the word “refugee.”

“Refugee” stems from the French word “réfugié,” which refers to Protestants who fled France following the cancellation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685. The Edict of Nantes was a law that granted religious liberty and civil rights to the Huguenots, a Protestant religious group from France in the 16th and 17th centuries. After the Huguenots were no longer granted protection and faced increased persecution in France, over 400,000 French Protestants fled their home country in the following years, many to Protestant England. However, within a decade, the word “refugee” was being used more generally in English to refer to anyone who was forced to flee to a place of safety, often because of danger or persecution due to one or more of the following reasons:

  • Their religious and/or political beliefs
  • Their race
  • Their sexual orientation or identity
  • Violence or war

The Refugee Crisis in Greece

There are millions of refugees from different regions all over the world, but Embrace Relief focuses on those fleeing Turkey to Greece. Overall, the number of refugees in Greece is approximately 5,500, all of whom arrived by land or sea since the beginning of 2021. And as more migration occurs, there is a greater need for efforts to grant refugees access to rights and opportunities in order to prevent increased isolation and protect their human rights. Thankfully, Embrace Relief recognizes that refugees provide an opportunity for cultural diversity and economic growth. Therefore, we embracerefugees by providing them with the following:

  • Emergency Housing—With emergency housing, refugees no longer have to stay in overpopulated refugee camps, which are especially unsafe during the COVID-19 pandemic. This support also includes food, water, clothing, and access to pro-bono lawyers and translators who assist refugees with asylum paperwork, searching for a permanent home, and placing their children into schools.
  •  Rent Assistance—Upon finding a permanent home, we continue to aid refugee families with up to $500 in rent assistance. So far, we have assisted 280 families.
  • English-Learning Courses—We systematically pair refugees with volunteer native English speakers who meet once a week via video call. They learn how to speak English, allowing them to excel in school, find new jobs, and make new friends in their new countries. To date we’ve enrolled nearly 300 refugees in English courses.
  • Adopt a Refugee Family—This program personally matches people in the United States with a refugee family in Greece, providing refugees with invaluable emotional and psychological support. Providing refugees with the sense that someone cares about them and their family helps them survive and succeed. We currently have 110 families who have been symbolically adopted.
  • First Bricks ProgramMillions of refugee children worldwide are often years behind the education level they should be at for their age. This is because they often miss months—if not years—of school. After all, they often hide with their parents to avoid conflict in their countries and endure prolonged periods of isolation in refugee camps. Therefore, the First Bricks online education program helps children of refugees learn math, science, and languages, among other important subjects, and connect with other children their age—all for free.
  • For children of refugees, the emotional and psychological burden of migrating to an unfamiliar country is undeniable. Under this state of duress, gestures of kindness and thoughtfulness often have a profound impact. Therefore, in the last two years, we’ve provided gift bags for over 3,000 children of refugees.

How YOU Can Help Refugees Fleeing to Greece

Please donate today or volunteer for refugees in Greece to help us provide them not only a significant cushion to fall on during tough times, but the means to integrate themselves into their new country. Thanks to the efficient system we have in place for refugees, they have the tools to positively impact their new communities. And YOU can make it part of your Year-End Resolutions to be a part of this meaningful evolution!

About Our Year-End Resolutions

A take on New Year’s Resolutions, our Year-End Resolutions is something you can do—right here, right now—that has an impact before the year is officially over. For example, contributing to one of Embrace Relief’s many humanitarian causes (check them all out here). And the best thing is—by doing so, you’ll officially make 2021 a great year. Not just for yourself, but for people who need support but have nowhere and no one to turn to, because together, we can provide the resources needed to save and change lives. Happy Year-End!