re·​foule·​ment rə-ˌfül-ˈmän How to pronounce refoulement (audio)
: the act of forcing a refugee or asylum seeker to return to a country or territory where he or she is likely to face persecution
Since 1980, United States law has defined refugees as people with a "well-founded fear of persecutions" in their home country and thus entitled to sanctuary or political asylum. To send them home would risk committing the diplomatic sin of refoulement—forcibly subjecting them to peril.The New York Times
see also non-refoulement

Examples of refoulement in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web Legal experts argue that these actions violate international laws against refoulement, or the return of migrants to unsafe places. Ian Urbina, The New Yorker, 28 Nov. 2021 The forcible return of the migrants, a practice known as refoulement, has also put many of them in lethal danger on land, because of Libya’s civil war. New York Times, 20 Mar. 2020 Escontrias, her lawyer, said Ricci was referred to a third non-refoulement interview during her hearing, which CBS News was barred from observing. Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News, 13 Aug. 2019

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'refoulement.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History


borrowed from French, literally, "turning away, rejection," going back to Middle French, from refouler "to force back, push in" (from re- re- + fouler "to crush, full (fabric)," going back to Old French) + -ment -ment — more at full entry 5

First Known Use

1954, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of refoulement was in 1954

Dictionary Entries Near refoulement

Cite this Entry

“Refoulement.” Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, Accessed 7 Dec. 2023.

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