This article examines the generation and management of refugees in the Balkans in the late nineteenth century, with a particular focus on the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires. The violence of the Eastern Crisis of 1875–78 produced Muslims and Christian refugees at an unprecedented scale and rate. After surveying Habsburg and Ottoman traditions of refugee management, the article looks at the case of over 250,000 Christian refugees fleeing Ottoman Bosnia-Herzegovina to the Habsburg Empire, and argues that domestic and international political circumstances of the flight created new demands and opportunities for imperial governments. The Habsburg government created an extensive refugee aid programme, while the Ottoman Empire initiated a cooperative effort at repatriation. In each case, implementation of government policies shaped the category of refugee, attaching to it attributions of victimhood and immiseration while attempting to exercise state control over refugee movement.