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A safe house is, in a generic sense, a secret place for sanctuary or suitable to hide persons from the law, hostile actors or actions, or from retribution, threats or perceived danger. It may also be a metaphor.
It may also refer to:
- in the jargon of law enforcement and intelligence agencies, a secure location, suitable for hiding witnesses, agents or other persons perceived as being in danger
- a place where people may go to avoid prosecution of their activities by authorities. Osama bin Laden's compound in Abbottabad has been described as a "safe house".
- a place where undercover operatives may conduct clandestine observations or meet other operatives surreptitiously
- a location where a trusted adult or family or charity organization provides a haven for victims of domestic abuse (see also: men and/or women's shelter or refuge)
- a home of a trusted person, family or organization where victims of war and/or persecution may take refuge, receive protection and/or live in secret
- Right of asylum
- sanctuary in medieval law
- sanctuary in modern times
- Church asylum
Typically, the significance of safe houses is kept secret from all but a limited number of people, for the safety of those hidden within them.
Many religious institutions will allow one to obtain sanctuary within one's place of worship, and some governments respect and do not violate such sanctuary.
Safe houses were an integral part of the Underground Railroad, the network of safe house locations that were used to assist slaves in escaping to the primarily northern free states in the 19th century United States. Some houses were marked with a statue of an African-American man holding a lantern, called "the Lantern Holder".
Safe houses also provided a refuge for victims of Nazi persecution and for escaping prisoners of war. Victims, such as Anne Frank and her family, were harbored clandestinely for extended periods of time. Other Jewish victims hidden from the Germans were Philip Slier and his extended family and friends.
- The Oxford English Dictionary defines it as: "a house in a secret location, used by spies or criminals in hiding." Oxford English Dictionary
- Greg Miller (7 May 2011). "CIA used safe house to spy on bin Laden". The Washington Post. Retrieved 15 October 2012.
- Matheson, Kathy (2008-02-23). "Man amasses black history treasure trove -". USA Today. Retrieved 2010-05-28.
- Frost, Karolyn Smardz (2007). I've Got a Home in Glory Land: A Lost Tale of the Underground Railroad. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 978-0-374-16481-2.
- Slier, Philip "Flip"; Deborah Slier (2008). Hidden Letters (illustrated ed.). New York: Star Bright Books. pp. 10, 159, 160, 161. ISBN 1887734880.
- Slier, Philip "Flip" & Slier, Deborah. Hidden Letters: The Hidden Letters of Flip Slier. Star Bright Books, 2008. ISBN 1887734880.