War makes a setting unhealthy for people. If for no other reason that it tends to tear up the crops and cause you to starve. And that's if they are careful not to shoot at you, and you have no particular thing about you that would cause them to target you - and they don't do it just for fun.
This causes people to get up and leave, even at the price of abandoning much of what they own, if not all. The fortunate ones do it before they are forced to; these ones are able to carry the most with them, but even they have to leave things behind, and plunge into an unknown setting, surrounded by strangers, in hopes of finding safety.
The mere flight can constitute a story in itself, filled with danger — it may have to on foot though there are, in theory, trains, cars, or planes for transport, and even the weather can be a peril — but arriving is no guarantee that the story will end. Landing in an unfamiliar location, often with little, often in a place already suffering its own shortages of food and other necessities, owing to the war — surviving when stuffed in a refugee camp — finding a way to make a living there — discovering whether you can ever return or find a new place to live, have filled many stories.
From the point of view of the destination, these destitute people can constitute a crushing burden. They can also contain spies and saboteurs, be deserters
, carry diseases, or otherwise endanger their destination.
is a subtrope. May result in Invading Refugees
. Truth in Television
, and widespread; please list only particularly striking examples in the Real Life
- The Transformers IDW introduced Non-Aligned Indigenous Life-forms (NAILs), a catch all term for Cybertronians who either fled their home before the conflict engulfed the entire planet or former combatants who deserted the Autobots or Decepticons over the course of the war. Transformers: Robots in Disguise deals with their return to Cybertron and attempts to form a functioning civil society with the combatants who drove them offworld.
- Hotel Rwanda has the titular hotel act as a sanctuary for war refugees, with various amounts of success. The last leg of the story is centered on the refugee truck column heading out from the hotel and towards a safe zone.
- In Blood Diamond, Solomon Vandy is a refugee from the civil war in Sierra Leone. Most of his family are in a large refugee camp and all of them ultimately emigrate to Europe. A rural school for rescued child soldiers is also depicted.
- Casablanca is just about full of refugees desperately seeking to go on.
- The War Of The Worlds 1953. As the Martians ravaged California the population of Los Angeles fled to the hills north of the city. Millions of them were watching during the atom bomb attack on the nest of Martian machines.
- Time Bandits. After going through a time door Kevin ends up in 1796 outside the town of Castiglione delle Stiviere, which had just been conquered by Napoleon. He meets a group of people from the town who are fleeing the fighting.
- In Andre Norton's Witch World novel The Year of the Unicorn, the abbey holds many refugees, including Gillian herself.
- In Margot Benery-Isbert's The Ark, the main character are a family of German refugees from regions annexed by Poland after World War II and forcibly cleared of Germans.
- In Andre Norton's Catseye, Judgement on Janus and other stories, the Dipple is the dumping place for people evacuated from their planets during an interstellar war.
- In John Barnes's One for the Morning Glory, refugees stream to the city. Alas, they have to be carefully checked because many of them are afflicted with undead, often hiding among their own relatives.
- In Dan Abnett's Gaunt's Ghosts novel Necropolis, a Powder Keg Crowd of refugees explodes when officials try to forcibly keep them out of the hive.
- Dorothy Gilman's The Clairvoyant Countess was originally a refugee from the Russian Revolution, many decades before the story.
- Monstrous Regiment: The squad encounters a huge flood of refugees as they make their way towards the Zlobenian front. Some of the refugees feel more sorry for the soldiers than they do themselves, which doesn't help the squad's moral any.
- Protector of the Small: In Lady Knight, Kel's assignment is to build and oversee a refugee camp near the Scanran front. Even though they're civilians, they're subject to frequent attack due to their location and must be trained to fight alongside the meager amount of soldiers allotted to the camp's protection. Even before they're captured so that Blayce can turn their children into killing devices.
- In Edgar Rice Burroughs's The Master Mind of Mars, Valla Dia's Back Story, how she ended up in Ras Thavas's hands.
- In The Singing Tree by Kate Seredy, German children are sent as evacuees to the farm that is its setting.
- In The Chestry Oak by Kate Seredy, Michael is a refugee after World War II and ends up in America, on a farm.
- In Andre Norton's Ordeal in Otherwhere, the Free Trader tells the colonists that he had fine young men under indefinite term labor contracts because he had been able to recruit the desperate in a refugee camp.
- In Michael Flynn's Spiral Arm novel On the Razor's Edge, one Hound observes that he hopes some refugees (and other powerless people) have breathed easier because he was on the job.
- In 1632 Grantville (a 20th century West Virginia coal mining town dropped into the middle of the Thirty Years' War by Alien Space Bats) is in danger of being swamped by refugees from the constant passing of armies sacking, plundering, and otherwise ruining the countryside. Not only does it not get drowned in refugees, the town turns them into an asset for a drive into a Boom Town.
- In J. R. R. Tolkien's Two Towers, Helm's Deep hold plentiful refugees as well as Théoden's forces. In Return of the King, Pippin arrived just in time to see the last of the women evacuated from the city.
- In Aunt Dimity and the Lost Prince, Gracie Thames' husband Tony is a descendant of a Russian Jew who fled the Nazi invasion during WWII and settled in Britain. Tony's father changed the family name so British customers would buy their line of frozen fish. Also, Mikhail's parents fled Russia when the Bolsheviks came to power, settling in Britain five months before Mikhail was born.
- In Poul Anderson and Gordon R. Dickson's first Hoka story, Alex finds a town filled with refugees from the Slissii — not acting very prudently even though the advance is continuing.
- Refugees are a perennial issue in the New Jedi Order, fleeing from one combat zone after another as the Yuuzhan Vong carry out their invasion of the galaxy. Early in the series, a common thread of B-plots deals with the Senate Select Committee on Refugees (SELCORE), which is ostensibly supposed to help these people, but is generally either underfunded or corrupt, or sometimes both. The problem continues to mount, particularly as large refugee fleets end up back in the line of fire as the invasion progresses.
- In Jack Campbell's Steadfast, Geary is sent to deal with a refugee crisis in a star system. He discovers it's only the tip of the problem.
- In The Wheel of Time series, dealing with refugees is a major problem as the books progress and the escalating warfare and political fallout destabilizes almost every nation in the setting. Later, famine becomes an even bigger problem.
- At least half the Koreans we see in M*A*S*H have fled from the Korean War battle zones.
- All the noncombatants seen in Falling Skies are humans who were forced to flee their homes when the aliens invaded. For most of the first two seasons, the 2nd Mass is accompanied by several hundred refugees whom they must safeguard at all times.
- In Season 3 the Volm are revealed to be a species that was forced to flee their home planet after it was conquered by the same alien race that has invaded Earth.
- Ahmad Khan from the short-lived Cop Show NYC 22 is a refugee from the war in Afghanistan turned NYPD rookie. He's got a major chip on his shoulder because of it.
- In Motive, this trope is subverted in one episode. A woman poses as a Czech immigrant. It turns out that she's wanted for war crimes committed when she was a doctor in a Bosnian Serb hospital.
- In Person of Interest, an Albanian woman has escaped to the US under the guise of being from Serbia. It turns out she has knowledge of what a high-ranking Serb officer did in Kosovo.
- Dondi is about a war orphan of indeterminate ethnicity (originally Italian, later Korean, Vietnamese and probably also others).
- Classic Traveller
- Double Adventure 5 The Chamax Plague/Horde. In Horde a ship filled with the alien Chamax monsters lands on the planet Raschev. The Chamax pour out of the ship and start reproducing and eating all food (including human beings) they can find. The Raschev armed forces try to fight back, but the human population has to flee the rampaging Chamax to avoid being consumed.
- The Traveller Adventure. Many Vargr fleeing the fighting between the Kforuzeng mercenaries and their rivals ended up on the human planet Jesedipere. The PCs can work with them to foil the Kforuzeng plot to buy stolen Imperial naval meson guns.
- Task Force Games' Starfire, Nexus magazine #12 article "Timeline: Modern Rigelian History". During the war between the Protectorate of Rigel and the Andoliani Empire, Protectorate Admiral Tohu Fommu captured the Andoliani colony planet Corall. He crowded the surviving colonists aboard captured freighters and sent them to the next Andoliani planet, Ardell. The large number of refugees overwhelmed Ardell and caused an organizational collapse, allowing it to be easily captured by the Protectorate. The Protectorate used this tactic repeatedly and eventually exterminated the Andoliani.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender: The gaang meets a family fleeing the war, in "The Serpent's Pass" episode, and accompany them to FullMoon Bay. There they see that there were countless others who were also fleeing the war, and had even set up a camp, while awaiting safe passage to Ba Sing Se.
- After the events of "The Siege of the North", Iroh is declared a traitor, and Zuko, a failure, by Fire Lord, Ozai. Which forces them to go into hiding, by passing themselves off as Earth Kingdom refugees.
- In Dragon Age: Origins the village of Lothering, the last location visited before the sandbox opens up, is full of refugees from the darkspawn, survivors of the army of Ferelden, and bandits preying on them both, and all three groups are only days ahead of the darkspawn. In Dragon Age II, you actually play as one of these Lothering refugees, as Hawke and his/her family are fleeing from Ferelden to Kirkwall in the Tutorial Level. Act I is mostly about finding means to survive in a city full of other refugees.
- Mass Effect 3: The Reaper invasion of the galaxy has caused individuals of all species to flee from their homes to safer locations still held by the Council, primarily, the Citadel. A lot of the Citadel quests revolve around helping refugees and resolving their conflicts with each other and the authorities. The biggest examples being the batarians, the Reapers' first victims, who fled their home systems in such numbers that the Citadel almost thought they were launching an invasion.
- St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland, was an English refugee from the Norman Invasion when she caught King Malcolm's eyes. (Malcolm from Macbeth, BTW.)
- Nazi Germany's policies forced many, many, many intellectuals, businesspeople, scientists, and artists to flee to more tolerant countries. Among the most prominent of these was Albert Einstein, who was Jewish.
- Gustav Mannerheim was a refugee from the Russian Revolution. The Soviets were later to regret that he escaped.
- During the Polish campaign the Luftwaffe deliberately herded refugees onto traffic areas by strafing them in order to cause traffic congestion for the Polish army.