Refugee Crisis in the Light of Identity

  • Sara Serdült University of Pécs, Institute of Psychology
  • Margaréta Harmouche University of Pécs
  • Subas Ali Eötvös Loránd University
  • Sara Bigazzi University of Pécs
Keywords: identity, social representation, migration, refugee, social identity


The aim of this study was to explore the inherent interrelations between representation and identity processes concerning the 2015 migration crisis in Hungary, focusing on the emergence of polemic representations of refugees, the interrelations of these representations with different contents of group identity, and their manifestations in intergroup relations and possible collective actions. The exploratory study involved 126 participants, who completed an online questionnaire including items addressing the contents of refugee representations (feelings, beliefs, historical parallelisms) and of the identity (feelings, political orientations, religious views). The results revealed co-occurrences between identification and representation patterns related to intergroup relations: those who experienced significantly more negative feelings towards being Hungarian and demonstrated more empathy towards refugees were more likely to have a left-wing political orientation. However, right-wing participants experienced significantly more positive feelings towards the Hungarian ingroup such as pride, respect, freedom, engagement, and they drew parallels between the current refugee situation and the historical Turkish invasion of, and Gypsy migration in Hungary. They had negative feelings towards refugees such as fear and anger, which were associated with defensive attitudes endorsing social exclusion, deportation, and separation. These results suggest that polemic refugee representations have emerged in the Hungarian society, which are related to relevant identity contents. Since intergroup relations are defined by these representations, interventions aimed at improving intergroup relations should deal with both identity and representational processes simultaneously.

Keywords: identity, social representation, migration, refugee, social identity

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