An expellee is a person who has been forced to leave their region or country of origin. In Germany, the term “expellees” describes people who after World War II were expelled from their places of origin that had belonged to the territory of the German Empire before the war. Among them were refugees who had left their homes prior to the official expulsion and sought refuge in today’s German territory. According to the Federal Expellee Law, expellees (Heimatvertriebene) are people who lived in the former Eastern German Territories before 1 September 1939. The Federation of Expellees (Bund der Vertriebenen – BdV) consists of a broad network of organisations and has over one million members. The Federation sees itself as a lobby group for the interest of expellees and repatriates.
Refugees are people who left their country or region of origin fearing expulsion, conflict, violence or persecution or other intolerable living conditions. In Germany, refugees can apply for asylum. People who did not apply for asylum yet are called asylum seekers; people who are in the asylum application process are called asylum applicants and refugees who are granted asylum are known as “recognized refugees”.