Based on a recent United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees report, the New York Times published a visualization of a very high graphic quality, mapping the 14 million refugees who fled their country in 2014. Beyond its undeniable qualities, this map is the perfect example of the need for datajournalists not be lulled by aesthetic. It’s a “blind” data visualization, suffering from two major readability problems:
– 1 The flows are not weighted: if there are 6,000 Mexican refugees in Canada, their edge will appear of the same thickness that a million Syrian refugees in Lebanon!
– 2 Giving more thickness to the edges at their arrival point, to show the direction of flow, is a nice graphical effect. But the consequence is clear: Europe and North America, with a high concentration of “endings”, are becoming very colorful while Africa and the Middle East are empty even though they host many more refugees (a smaller concentration of “endings”).
These two visual elements suggest that “The Flight of Refugees Around the Globe” is a race to Europe, while the data clearly show that it is wrong for more than 90% of them. As this chart had a great success on the internet, and as the sources are freely available on the UNHCR database, I spent a few minutes to propose another version:
⬆︎ The map above displays the same information as the New York Times. We see very easily between what countries are the largest displacements: Syria and its neighbors, Afghanistan and its neighbors, conflicts in Chad, Sudan, D.R. Congo and Somalia, but also from Ukraine to Russian Federation. Visually, this map is much less aesthetic than the one produced by the New York Times, and its readability is not without problems (the edges between Syria and its neighbors are very short but very broad, making it difficult to understand their direction), but it displays a comprehensive overview.
⬆︎ A small number of conflicts is the source of a large part of the displacements. Above, six countries are highlighted. They are concerned by a great majority of the largest edges of the map, as shown in the table (top 50 edges – relations between origin and asylum countries – with the same color code as the map above)
⬇︎ The map below highlights the European countries. Except for Ukraine, “Fortress Europe” is almost exclusively a refuge.
- Made with Gephi.
SEE ALSO: Other refugees maps
- Déplacés internes et réfugiés selon le HCR 2010 (Sciences Po)
- Interactive flow map visualization (Ilya Boyandin – see source on GitHub)