The term was first created in Japanese language: マック難民 (makku nanmin). That term had been largely replaced by ネットカフェ難民 (nettokafe nanmin), literally "net cafe refugee". In Japan, most McDonald's restaurants are operated around the clock. Due to unemployment and high rents and transportation costs in Japan, McRefugees choose to stay at a McDonald's overnight.
The phenomenon and word spread to Hong Kong as 麥難民 (mahk naahn màhn), where some McRefugees play video games and are known as McGamers. McDonald's opened 24-hour branches in mainland China in September 2006, which quickly attracted McRefugees.
In early October 2015, the death of a woman in a 24-hour Hong Kong McDonald’s restaurant in Kowloon Bay brought attention to the problem of McRefugees. McRefugees can be found in other 24-hour branches as well. Among the more than 1,600 homeless people in Hong Kong in 2015, about 250 were McRefugees.
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