The term was first created in Japanese: makku nanmin (マック難民). That term had been largely replaced by nettokafe nanmin (ネットカフェ難民), literally "net cafe refugee". In Japan, most McDonald's restaurants are operated around the clock. Due to unemployment, 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 mahk naahn màhn (麥難民), 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 phenomenon 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.
In 2018, A study conducted by the Society for Community Organization found that there were 384 McRefugees in Hong Kong. In August of the same year, a movie concerning about this topic started to film in Hong Kong, with the title I'm living it, mimicking the slogan of the restaurant, "I'm loving it".
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- Ng, Naomi (2016-01-09). "Hong Kong's shame: homeless numbers soar amid high rents and squalid living conditions". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2017-04-15.
- Su, Xinqi (2018-03-04). "Homeless women more vulnerable in rising McSleeper trend". South China Morning Post. Retrieved 2018-08-05.
- Ryan (2018-08-27). "黃慶勳《麥路人》正式開鏡拜神" [I'm living it the movie started filming.]. 講。鏟。片 (in Chinese). Retrieved 2018-10-29.
- Video on YouTube