An Interactive Map Of Every Refugee In The World

Trace a dizzying and very sad series of paths that mark the millions of people each year who are forced to flee their homes.

Every day, an average of 23,000 people around the world are forced to flee their homes because of war or the threat of persecution. Many end up crossing international borders and becoming refugees; millions of people each year migrate in a dizzying series of paths. Now a new infographic for The Refugee Project for the first time maps out each refugee migration since 1975.


The project started when designers at the firm Hyperakt discovered a mountain of data during a visit to the U.N. High Commission for Refugees in Geneva. “We were kind of blown away by the content that they had and saw that the way they were using it was not as compelling as it could be,” says Deroy Peraza, principal and creative director at Hyperakt. The team partnered with Ekene Ijeoma, and then poured 500 hours of volunteer work into building the website.

On the interactive map, circles around each country expand and contract as the flow of refugees grows or slows, and a heatmap at the bottom shows how volumes have changed over time. Radiating lines show the countries where refugees have found asylum. The site also goes beyond simply making the data clearer-a toggle switch on the graphic shows the number of refugees as a percentage of population, a comparison the U.N. hadn’t made before.

“There are small countries who at some point in history had a very large of their population leave, but they’re often not as big a story because the sheer volume of refugees is not as big as other countries. But to that country’s reality it must have been a tremendous impact,” says Peraza.

The website also includes headlines for turning points in each country’s history, to help provide context behind the migrations. Peraza says the team wants to keep adding more stories. “We’d like to do some reporting and testimonials with refugees to add a more human face to this project,” he says. “Right now, it’s really meant to be sort of an atlas.”

Another facet the team hopes to add, assuming they find funding to continue work on the project, is the story of asylum–not just the places that refugees have fled, but the countries that have taken them in.

“We see this as the tip of an iceberg of data,” Peraza says. “There’s just a lot more that we’d like to add to it.”


About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley.