Visualizing Syrian Refugee Crisis

syrian refugee process


To escape the violence of Syrian Civil War, more than four million Syrian refugees have fled the country to neighboring Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, and Iraq, while thousands have also ended up in more distant countries of the Caucasus, the Persian Gulf, North Africa and Europe. At the present time, the Syrian Refugee Crisis is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis since the second world war. This 4 member group class project done in Information Visualization course at Georgia Tech visualized the timeline of the crisis and highlighted individual stories of survivors as well as news articles.

The project aimed at visualizing:

  • The escalation of the Syrian civil war over time and how it affects the number of Syrian refugees
  • The migration of Syrian refugees into different countries. Breakdown of these numbers based on gender, age, etc
  • Highlighting individual refugee stories to explore the human aspect of the crisis
  • Visualizing the number of violent events over time along with the geographical location of occurrence
  • Examining the correlation of the number of violent events and the number of internally displaced people and the number of refugees



With the project we aimed to bring the Syrian crisis to the attention of the general public through a simple and personalized visualization. By including stories, we were providing wider context to the numbers and a more tangible look at the crisis.



# Title URL Characteristics
1 Registered Syrian Refugees CSV file containing two variables: time and # of registered refugees. From Dec 2011 to Aug 2015.
3 Number of asylum applicants to European countries
Asylum and first time asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Monthly data

filterable by country of citizenship - from 2008 to 2014, downloadable data

Same data - more granular

4 Asylum and new asylum applicants - monthly data Downloadable CSV file containing the number of asylum applications to EU countries over time
6 Syrian Crisis- Questions like where are they from? Which countries are they migrating? What route? etc. Detailed info along with data sources in csv or as a table in pdf which can be copied and pasted
7 Visualizing the Syrian Refugee Crisis Visualizing the outflux of refugees over time
8 Syrian Arab Republlic
People who fled the country; people who are internally displaced Infographic displays number of internally displaced people in Syria over time when hovered over. Data will need to be manually extracted. Covers the situation from January, 2013 to September, 2015.
9 Individual refugee stories


Short individual narratives by the refugees recounting their experiences. Most stories mention time and a geographical location..

Design Ideas

Design 1

Our first design idea visualized the internally and externally displaced Syrian population over time. The timeline allowed the user to gain overall idea of how the situation unfolded. We also displayed the trend of internal displacement and migration into neighboring countries over the year as well as relatable context to the numbers.

Feedback: Statistics should not be displayed on hover as it affects discoverability.

Possible Solution: A separate side view for the numbers.

The second design idea compared all the statistics with the selected US state, including number of people and distances. Hovering revealed more detailed info and comparison between the two. Individual stories of some refugees would be highlighted. This idea was a further extension of the first design idea but it allowed personalization of context by the viewer. It allowed the user to understand the events in a familiar situation and compare it to something they can connect to. 

Feedback: “Why just US?” and what are appropriate comparisons such as “Comparison to football stadium capacity”


syrian design 2
syrian design 3

The third design visualized violent events in Syria and their impact on migration to neighbouring countries over time. Additional details were revealed on hovering a country such as origin of refugees. A time series control at the bottom provided an overview of number of violent events, deaths and refugees over time.

Problem: Different scales for the measures might impact the legibility of the visualization. To be tested by prototyping with real sample data.

Feedback: The final design idea can be less geocentric.

Final Design & Implementation

The visualization has an interactive timeline with two sliders which allow the user to select a time interval of interest. On selection, the visualization shows a time series graph of the number of violent events over time. It also includes an area graph of the number of refugees with time allowing the user to examine the correlation between the number of violent events at a time and the number of refugees. The graph representing the number of refugees with time allows the user to further see graphs representing the number of refugees in different neighboring countries. As the user selects a time interval, the violent events that have occurred in that time interval are displayed on a map of Syria. This visualization is represented in the form of a heat map. A list of news articles and individual refugee stories are also shown on the side. This design provides multiple perspectives to the user instead of just showing the number of IDP (Internally Displaced Persons) and refugees over time. Also, though having a geographical aspect to it, this design is not entirely dominated by maps. Rather, this design allows the map to complement the more traditional visualization techniques (time-series charts, area graphs, bar graphs, etc.). The inclusion of news articles and individual refugee stories provides a deeper understanding of the issue while also giving the visualization a narrative aspect. This aspect helps in making the numbers more relatable and effective as the cost of the crisis is shown through rich, descriptive articles containing pictures, etc.

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