More than a million refugees and migrants came to Europe in 2015, what is considered the worst refugee crisis since the World War II. Visualisations are a powerful way to contextualise the data and analyse the magnitude of the tragedy.

In this list I have collected 6 data visualisations projects about the refugee crisis. All of them use data from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR). The list takes into account the power of their visuals and whether they bring something new to the story.

The Flow Towards Europe

It’s not easy to visualise a huge amount of data and make it in a simple and beautiful way. Juho Ojala, Ville Väänänen and Ville Saarinen from Lucify overcome this challenge extraordinarily.

Their project — main picture of this article — shows the flow of asylum seekers to Europe. Each point represents 25 people and the user can select the country of destiny or the country where the refugees come from and see the flow. The time range is from 2012 to 2016.

The project also shows the data country by country in an alluvial diagram.

Alluvial diagram by Lucify
Alluvial diagram by Lucify

After the success of the project, the team has published a new project about how many people have sought asylum in European countries. This new visualisation takes into account the number of asylum seekers according to the population and also allows the user to access the data within a time range.

The Refugee Project

The Refugee Project tells the story of the refugee movements from the last 40 years while adding historical context to the data.

The refugee project connects the data with geopolitical events
The refugee project connects the data with geopolitical events

The project is created by Hyperakt and uses UNHCR and UN population data. Neither economic migrants nor internally displaced persons are included.

“As a result, it is an image almost exclusively of social and political crises, rather than of natural disasters or economic turmoil (though these factors are often interrelated).”

Apart from an elegant visualisation, the map gives the reader information about the top 3 countries of origin of the refugees — including the total figures — and the number of refugees in the world per population for each year.

It is worth having a look at the huge list of links related to the project and classified by country.

4 decades of refugee crises in 3 minutes

Brian Foo describes himself as a programmer, artist and data-driven DJ. He has created a song using the refugee data from the United Nations from 1975 to 2012.

The song follows a strong methodology. Every 4-seconds segment represents a year. The total number of refugees in the world defines the quantity of instruments playing and the amount of countries with more that 1000 refugees controls the variety of instruments.

More details about how Brian Foo composed the song here.

Europe isn’t the front line of the refugee crisis

Data can be used to make visualisations but it’s also a valuable source to find new approaches to our stories. Christian Caryl and Valerio Pellegrini analyse the data from the UNHCR and bring a new angle: European countries are not the ones who receive more refugees in the world.

In 2015 the country with more refugees per 1,000 inhabitants was Lebanon, followed by Jordan and Nauru.

Their article includes an interesting visualisation with the countries that “export” and “import” more refugees from 1980 to 2015.

Click on the image to make it bigger
Click on the image to make it bigger


The graphic shows the changes over the years by country and relate them to some events. One remarkable example is Ethiopia, a major source of refugees until the 90s but now a host country.

I included this visualisation in the list because I think it’s a good example to get inspired. Nevertheless, it would be much better if it was interactive and not only a picture.

Global Refugee Populations 1975-2010

Physicist Steve Melnikoff , a honorary Visiting Fellow at the University of Melbourne, is the author of this the global refugee populations visualisation, which shows the evolution of the refugee population within 35 years.

“This interactive web application was created to help provide fundamental insights into global refugee population over time”

It’s interesting how the project uses the world globe to show all the countries and the changes over the years. For each country, there is its refugee population by year and the number of refugees that the country has generated.

The world globe is a good way to create interactivity
The world globe is a good way to create interactivity

The project gets the data from the UNHCR as well. The notes highlight that, as most industrialised countries don’t have a refugee register with reliable data, the UNHCR estimates the data based on the arrival of refugees through resettlement programmes and individual recognition over a 10-year and a 5-year period.

UNHCR historial refugee data

The UNHCR has its own visualisation about the refugee data from 1960 to 2012. This project has a more demographical approach of the refugee movements.

Screen Shot 2016-08-03 at 15.58.35

It includes the total population, the population change and whether the country has received refugees or their citizens have become refugees and the impact over the total population.

Do you know any other visualisation about the refugee flow? Help me to increase the list and leave a comment or share your suggestion at @Carlapedret.