The term xenophobia originally derives from the Greek words xenos, meaning ‘the stranger’ and ‘the visitor’ and phobos, from where the word phobia is derived, meaning fear. Therefore, xenophobia stands for ‘fear of the stranger’ but the word is generally taken as meaning ‘hatred towards strangers’.

What is Xenophobia ?

Xenophobia is the dislike or hatred of what is viewed as something foreign or different.

Xenophobia may entail a group’s view which may express itself in distrust of other people’s actions and a desire to remove their existence in order to maintain perceived superiority and furthermore, may be related to a fear of lack of cultural, ethnic or racial identification.

Xenophobia can also be displayed in the context of an “uncritical exaltation of another race” in which an “unreal, supernatural and alien nature” is applied to a culture.

According to UNESCO, xenophobia and racism frequently intersect, but vary in the manner in which racism involve discrimination based on physical features, while the xenophobia usually focuses on actions focused on the notion that a defined individual is hostile to a culture or country.

Xenophobia typically occurs when people fear that their rights to benefit from government are being subverted by the rights of others, who are usually foreigners.


Is Xenophobia the Same as Racism ?

These two may sound identical, but they’re not, because the only resemblance they share is that both are unacceptable behaviours that are responsible for a regressive culture.

Racism is extreme dislike for individuals belonging to another race. Xenophobia, on the other hand, is distrust or terror of individuals viewed as immigrants or foreigners with particular cultural values.

Also, xenophobia and racism often overlap but they remain separate phenomena. Although racism typically entails differentiation based on distinctions in physical features, such as skin colour, hair colour, facial morphology, etc., xenophobia refers to behaviour based on the belief that the other is alien to or originates from outside the group or country.

Considering that variations in physical features are often used to differentiate between the ‘other’ and the general culture, it is also impossible to distinguish between racism and xenophobia as reasons for the resulting behaviour. At the same time, xenophobia may be articulated toward persons with similar physical features as these individuals visit, move or relocate to states or places where they are perceived by the inhabitants to be outsiders.

What are the Reasons for Xenophobia ?

  •         People are unfamiliar with a specific nationality
  •         People have had a bad encounter with one person of a specific nationality or heritage and thus associate bad feelings for everyone of that persuasion
  •         Because of something that happened historically between different countries – for example: WWII
  •         Ignorance or narrow-mindedness (so they don’t like, what they don’t know)
  •         Discrimination
  •         Prejudice
  •         Belief in (particularly negative) stereotypes
  •         Blindly believing what the media says about immigrants (which is almost often negative)
  •         Racism

Examples of Xenophobia

The word xenophobia refers to the fear of something that is special, alien or strange. Xenophobia is an irrational fear which is unfounded. The root of the word comes from the Greek for “fear,” “phobos” and the Greek for “stranger,” “xenos.”

Real-world Examples of Xenophobia

  •         Jewish Holocaust
  •         Ku Klux Klan’s murder of black families
  •         Indian caste system that has deliberately discriminated against those in lower castes
  •         The Rwandan attempted “ethnic cleansing,” culminating in the genocide of hundreds of thousands of Tutsis and Tutsi women being raped.
  •         Hate crimes against Indians in Australia in 2009.
  •         The war between 1991 and 1995 in Yugoslavia involved violence between many ethnic groups resulting in significant deaths. Participating communities were the Croats, Serbs, Bosnians and Slovenians.
  •         Riots in France may be a result of xenophobia
  •         Colonial treatment of Native Americans is considered the product of xenophobia.
  •         Hate crimes committed against the Chinese in the late 1800s in the U.S.
  •         There was some anti-German sentiment that might have led to xenophobia during and after World War 1
  •         Violence against foreigners in South Africa in 2019.
Effects of Xenophobia

2019 South African Xenophobia Crisis

At least 12 people were killed and hundreds arrested during the time between August and September 2019 after mobs targeted foreign-owned shops in Johannesburg and Pretoria. The attacks attracted criticism from across the continent of Africa and culminated in threats of reprisals abroad.

Nigeria started to evacuate some of its people, recalled its high commissioner and boycotted the World Economic Forum on Africa summit in Cape Town city.

The new round of xenophobic attacks is veiled in the idea that foreigners, mostly refugees from other African countries, are to blame for the social and economic problems in South Africa.

Politicians in South Africa have repeatedly protested about the arrival of foreign nationals, with some alleging that they were burdening industries such as the national health system. The government has also cracked down on incoming migrants, potentially reducing their numbers over the years. For instance, the Department of Home Affairs expelled about 370,000 people mainly from neighbouring Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho between January 2012 and December 2016.

What are the Effects of Xenophobia ?

One of xenophobia’s social impacts is that it creates an environment of mutual animosity and mistrust. This will trigger a decrease in the number of migrants to that particular society. That, in effect, has a negative influence on the economy and the country can potentially be robbed of creativity and capital inflow. As a result of the prevalent mood in the country, the worsening of this animosity will lead to a spree of violence, like the one seen in South Africa in 2008 and 2019. This xenophobic response is not new to the ‘Rainbow Nation’ as South Africa is called, because there have been many such situations in the Apartheid Period, and they were supposed to end after the establishment of democratic rule in the country in 1994. However, the recent animosity against foreign nationals has proven otherwise. Such threats on the Nigerians were common in South Africa. Nigerians themselves are not unfamiliar with this kind of hatred for outsiders, as in the 1980s, when many people of Ghanaian descent were killed, the country had seen a similar spate of killings. One of the detrimental consequences of xenophobia on a society is that it will, more or less, transform into a closed one, where new philosophies, ideas, and thought mechanisms cannot be implemented. It would also have long-term consequences on the visitors, who are being warned against and who tend not to visit such a dangerous area. This will result in considerable loss of income, and that will affect numerous sectors related to the tourism industry.


Xenophilia or xenophily denotes an affinity for unknown/foreign things, behaviours, cultures or persons. It is the antonym of xenophobia.

Some of xenophobia’s social consequences is that it creates an environment of mutual animosity and mistrust. This may trigger the number of migrants to drop within that particular community. It has, in effect, a negative influence on the economy and the country can be robbed of creativity and capital inflow.

Racial discrimination is when you are handled differently because of your colour, or because of the ethnicity of someone you are related to.

The clearest reasons proposed for xenophobia are socio-economic causes like unemployment, deprivation, and insufficient or denial of service provision that are often politically linked.

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