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Two important visuals for new global migration data

Migration is a much debated subject around the world. We are investigating the impacts that migration on countries, migrants, business and more. Read more on Migration Matters.

We have looked previously at visual representations of migration, but these two visuals manage to capture the scale of movement and its impacts. Also, they are interactive and really interesting.

First up is a visualization of 20 years of migration collected by geographers and published in the journal Science. The interactive version is even better as it reveals changes over five year periods from 1990 to 2010. You can also isolate out by country or region over the periods and see just where people are going, quickly and easily.

Among the interesting trends is the contraction of migration out of Africa over the past two decades. The big changers over the period are North America, Europe and South Asia.

Zooming out a bit more, the bigger trends point to a steady global flow of migrants since roughly 1995. As is already known, the big movement is coming from the middle income countries like Mexico and India, not the poor ones.

Most African migrants did not actually leave the continent, as some might make you think. Though the authors predict a change in the overall trend for the continent.

Our findings provide evidence for a stable intensity of global migration flows and a concentration of African migration within the continent, with only a small percentage moving to the more developed countries in 1990 to 2010. Therefore, it seems unlikely that if these observed trends persist, emigration from Africa will play a key role in shaping global migration patterns in the future.

Next up is where migrants have died while trying to reach Europe.

It is the product of The Migrant Files, a collective of European journalists looking for more accurate data and reporting on people seeing refuge on the continent.

“In the shadowy world of transcontinental migration, shedding light on where and how would-be migrants lose their life is critical for better, more effective policy making,” explains Penelope Chester for the UN Dispatch in discussing the maps.

The collection of deaths occurring between 2000 and 2013 show the dangers and lengths that people will go to travel to Europe. More importantly, the map, as well as the circle plot provide valuable data on what happens to migrants and where they are going.

As countries wrangle with what to do about policies regarding migration, having accurate information is crucial. Unsurprisingly, knowing precise numbers has been difficult for quite some time. The tracking of flows represents a better understanding of just how many people are going from where and to where.

The Migrant Files project shows how news reports can play a part in both reporting stories and collecting trends. As I and others dig deeper, we will hope to put faces to these numbers and understand what can be learned from this data for migration policy.


About Author

Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy is a New Hampshire-based reporter for Humanosphere. Before joining Humanosphere, Tom founded and edited the aid blog A View From the Cave. His work has appeared in Foreign Policy, the Huffington Post, the Guardian, GlobalPost and Christian Science Monitor. He tweets at @viewfromthecave. Contact him at tmurphy[at]