By: Andrea González-Ramírez

The Refugee Project is an interactive map that documents the refugee migrations around the world from 1975 to 2012. The project is based on data from the United Nations and is complemented by original histories of the major refugee crises of the last four decades, situated in their individual contexts.

Why it works:

1) There’s a lot of information, but it’s very well organized

The map provides tons of information: refugee population per country, places where refugees have seemed asylum, historical context of each event that led to a refugee crisis, a timeline of the refugee migrations from 1975 to 2012, among other things.  Having so much data could potentially lead to a very disorganized map, but that’s not the case. The stats are always on a left column, the historical context doesn’t appear unless you click on the country that had the crisis and the option of zooming in and out makes easier the process of finding information for each country.

2) The data sources are legitimate

The project uses the UN’s data. The organization counts and tracks millions of displaced people through the offices of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and a separate agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA). The UNHCR has a map rather similar to the Refugee Project with the exact same data, but it doesn’t work as well. Bottom line is, I think the data sources are pretty legit.

3) It provides historical context for each event that led to a refugee crisis

Each crisis that has led to refugee migrations is described in detail whenever you hover a specific country during a specific year. It’s nice that the map not only tells you that X amount of people flew out a country, but why they were forced to.

4) It’s pretty

The design is simple, yet effective. The use of the dark background and only red and blue to make the information pop out was a good idea.

5) It has an additional list of sources for further readings

This is one of my favorite parts. Even though is not accesible through the visualization per se, this project also includes a list of other sources in their “About Me” section where you can find multiple sources of information per year.

Things that could be better:

1) It can be a little overwhelming

At first glance, the map can be a little bit confusing and it can be hard to decide where to start. For me it was easy to figure it out, but I had a friend who seemed just plain confused when trying to figure out how it worked. Maybe it there was a legend or a established set of  instructions to guide you through it, it would be much better.

2) Because it goes back to 1975, some data is missing or not available

This one was kind of obvious. Because it goes back four decades, there’s data that’s either missing or not available. This is not explained anywhere. But come on, during the 70’s the United States didn’t welcomed any kind of refugees? That doesn’t seem right.*

[*I’m spouting nonsense without verifying this information. Will get back to you guys on this fact.]

Final impressions:

Overall, I believe this is a very good visualization. This is a very important topic and this project did a good job in trying to capture all the information. I wish the group behind it would make an updated version, specially considering all that’s been going on in the last couple of years.