This is How Location Data Can Resolve the Global Refugee Crisis

refugee crisis

This is How Location Data Can Resolve the Global Refugee Crisis

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By Steve Isaac, Content Marketing Producer, Carto 

Whether due to natural disaster, climate change, violent conflict, persecution, or human rights violations, the displacement of people from their homes is reaching a record high. According to United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 65.6 million people were displaced from their homes in the last year.

If the displaced population were a country, it would be the 22nd most populous in the world, falling between Great Britain and France. Of the displaced population, 22.5 million are refugees — displaced not only from their homes, but from their countries as well.

The refugee crisis is a global problem, and global problems require powerful solutions.

Solutions to the challenges faced by refugees and displaced persons, and the governments and organisations who are working to assist them, are rooted in
location data.

In recognition of World Refugee Day (June 20th), I wanted to shed light on several projects that are part of the wider work to help the world’s refugees by:

  • Monitoring the Global Refugee Crisis
  • Providing Logistical Insights for Refugee Services and Support
  • Telling the Stories of Refugees


1. Monitoring the Global Refugee Crisis

Monitoring the movement of refugees and displaced persons around the globe is invaluable work. It provides great context around the impact of global crises and displacing events.

By monitoring and mapping this movement, organisations can provide insights to inform policy decisions, raise awareness, act as a resource for risk assessment, and power real-time response for refugees.

The Refugee Project

The Refugee Project maps out 42 years of refugee movement and is a reference for understanding not just the past but also the future of the global refugee crisis. The timescale component provides much needed context, as major global events are identified and detailed as the map portrays over four decades of refugee movement.

refugee crisis


The Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC): Updates and Global Map

The IDMC was established in 1998 and since then has provided global data on displacement and the events that cause it. In collecting and analysing this data, they are able to track patterns and gain a deeper understanding of the causes of internal displacement and provide advice which supports local, national, and global policy implementation.

Their Global Map, as seen below, provides a snapshot of displacement in the last year with icons depicting the number of displaced persons in each country and linking to country-level reports that provide deeper insight into the specific cause of displacement in that country.

The Displacement Updates Map takes an active monitoring role, providing an up-to-date view of displacement events occuring in the last 30 days, and categorising those events as either disasters, conflicts and violence, or development.


2. Logistical Insights for Refugee Services and Support

Whether monitoring conditions in refugee camps, providing legal assistance to asylum seekers, or providing a hub for refugee response and support, many organisations are mapping location data to maximize their impact.

Asylos Research Notes

Asylos is a European volunteer organisation that is committed to working as a repository of information and research for asylum-seekers around the globe. They have created a map with links to research notes to help lawyers in assisting global refugees fleeing dangerous circumstances.

refugee crisis


IRIN & The Rohingya Risk Analysis Map

IRIN News is an outlet dedicated to reporting on emergencies around the globe. As part of their reporting on the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar — where nearly 700,000 Rohingya refugees fled extreme violence and religious persecution to Bangladesh in 2017 alone — they mapped out the conditions of the Kutupalong-Balukhali refugee camp.

The map overlays the camp layout with available health facilities as well as layers showing flood and landslide risk. Over 100,000 people live in those at risk areas. Hopefully, mapping these dangers will heighten the awareness and positioning of the international community to mobilise resources that can help alleviate the tremendous risks that these people face.


UNHCR’s Uganda Refugee Response Portal

UNHCR’s Uganda Response Portal is designed to be a resource for local authorities and aid groups working on country-level coordination to assist the 1.5 million refugees currently in Uganda. Many of these refugees are located in northern Uganda, along the border with crisis-torn South Sudan.

The portal provides information on policy, events, and coordination efforts, alongside a map showing population density of refugees in the country and active refugee settlements. Through greater coordination, aid groups can maximise their efficiency as they work to help the country’s refugee population.

refugee crisis


3. Telling the Stories of Refugees

By documenting displacement and migration, and telling the stories of refugees, organisations can shine a light on the challenges, risks, and dangers that refugees face around the globe. In addition to providing context to lawmakers working to bolster refugee protections, these stories humanise refugee populations who are often otherwise met with resentment. Routes, Incidents, and Reports’s stated mission is to “investigate and document human movement” and to “cast a spotlight on the information gaps found along the main migratory routes for the benefit of all.” They approach these goals with a focus on the migrants themselves.

Through visualisation, analysis, and in depth reports, Xchange tells the stories of thousands of refugees, migrants, and displaced peoples around the world. Their recent Central Mediterranean Survey maps routes and incidents of these journeys, allowing users to filter by country of origin, “push factor”, and “border crossing date”.

refugee crisis

Their Incidents Map below shows just how vulnerable refugees are and how they are susceptible to dangers such as arbitrary arrest and detention, human trafficking and slavery, forced labour, sexual assault, and rape.

refugee crisis


Missing Migrants

The International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants project maps out migrant deaths, as identified along common migration routes. This is possibly the most stark depiction of the dangers faced by refugees and displaced persons.

Whether they are fleeing gang violence in Central America, or religious persecution in Southeast Asia, or are otherwise displaced by circumstances outside of their control, refugees and migrants risk their lives in search of a better situation for themselves and their families.

refugee crisis

Many of the people who die on these routes go unidentified.

ABC, the Odyssey of Refugees

To provide readers with greater understanding of the impact of refugees in Europe, and the stories of those refugees, Spanish news organisation, ABC, put together their Odisea De Los Refugiados or Odyssey of Refugees project. The project maps out the refugee story, and amplifies it with images and videos.

refugee crisis


Article first appeared on the Carto Blog.


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