Gaining Insight into Migrant Deaths

In 2016, the International Organization for Migration’s Missing Migrants Project recorded the deaths of nearly 7,500 migrants, more than 5,000 of whom perished in the Mediterranean. The number of migrant deaths across most regions of the world is rising and the Missing Migrants Project is the only effort to collect this data worldwide.

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Migrants and refugees struggle ashore on a Greek beach. © IOM/ Francesco Malavolta 2016

Researchers, journalists, and policy-makers, including Europol, Migrant Report, Reuters and many other news media sources frequently use our data. These users have differing levels of technical knowledge. We partnered with the Humanitarian Data Exchange to create a visualization that could convey our data in a more effective and understandable way.

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The visualization allows users interested in global trends to view the entire dataset, while others can filter the data by a specific region or group of migrants. It is also possible to compare death rates over time and between regions. But the visualization is not just for external users: for our team, it has helped us identify missing entries in the data, and has allowed us to analyse the main causes of migrant deaths in key regions over time.

We will feature the visualization on different pages of the Missing Migrants Project website, customised to help illustrate different aspects of information on migrant deaths. For example, a page on data for the Mediterranean might feature a version of the visualization filtered just for that region, allowing users to explore and compare the data in the way that interests them most.

The Missing Migrants Project collects information on migrant deaths and disappearances across the world on a daily basis from a variety of sources, including national authorities, NGOs, media reports, and interviews with surviving migrants. IOM staff verify this information, then codify it to fit the 20 variables contained in the Missing Migrants dataset. The visualization uses variables on the time, location, and cause of death, as well as the region of origin of migrant decedents.

While the issue of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean has made headlines in recent months, we hope that the new HDX visualization will bring attention to the risks migrants face in other regions as well. We also hope that through more accessible and understandable data, users will be able to provide new research and insights into how to better protect migrants around the world.

Julia Black coordinates the Missing Migrants Project for IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre in Berlin. Previously, she co-directed a local non-profit in the San Francisco Bay Area. She graduated with a BA in Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of California, Berkeley in 2015, and will finish her MA in International Affairs at the Hertie School of Governance in 2017.