The refugee crisis and Syrian Civil War; a humanitarian issue reflected through data.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

The refugee crisis and Syrian Civil War; a humanitarian issue reflected through data.

When we finish the year we always look to the past to weigh up the good and the bad moments of the year (trying to make the most of 2016). Unfortunately, there are some places in the world where it’s difficult to find the good news. Syria being one of those places; dealing with a bloody civil war lasting for five years with an uncertain future. The Syrian conflict has seen tens of thousands killed, hundreds of thousands injured and millions who have been forced to abandon their homes.

The holidays are coming and we can't wait to be able to spend them in our homes with our family and friends. For this reason, it seemed fitting for us to use this data to remember the number of families who have been separated and left without a home making them a refugee in a foreign country. We also want to recognise the solidarity of those countries who are receiving the fleeing population from Syria and make a call for action from states to multiply their efforts to give a dignified new life to these people.

To give yourself an idea of the magnitude of the impact of the Syrian War in terms of displaced people, we recommend that you look into the UNHCR data portal.

Syria Regional Refugee Response
Figure 1: UNHCR Portal

The United Nations Agency for Refugees has given an updated dataset with the number of refugees per country, also including demographic information like age and gender, financial needs and agencies which are aiding the situation in each country.

We can quickly confirm that since the start of the conflict the number of refugees has rose to 4,837,248 people who have had to give up on Syria through vulnerable conditions, 45% of those affected are under the age of 18. It is estimated that another 6 million people have also lost their home but have stayed in the country. According to UNHCR data, those who have managed to flee mainly are directed to Turkey (2,790,767), Lebanon (1,017,433), Jordan (655,675), Iraq (228,894) and Egypt (115,204). In the second figure we can assess the development of the number of refugees who left Syria and moved towards other regions. At the end of 2014 Turkey was the country which had received the most refugees. It should also be noted that since the beginning of 2016 the total number of refugees has varied very little.

Figure 2: Time evolution of the number of refugees received per country
Whilst Turkey is the country with the most number of displaced refugees, we are dealing with a country that is large in terms of area as well as population (less than 80 million inhabitants). Its per capita income (the largest among these countries) is around $9125.

We thought it would be interesting to reorder the countries with relevance relating to the size of their population and their per capita income, both allowing us to determine their global presence. The World Bank is the source for historic data like this, giving us access to this analysis. Figure 3 was created by using this information to create the time evolution giving us a new variable: the percentage of refugees directly correlated with the total population of the country. We can note that with relation to their size Lebanon and Jordan both made more significant efforts than Turkey. In 2014, Lebanon received 21% of refugees in relation to its population. Nevertheless for the past two years they have in effect plateaued and Lebanon's intake has actually decreased, and Jordan's hasn't increased. Turkey on the other hand has practically doubled its ratio in 2 years although it is still less significant than that of Lebanon and Jordan.

Figure 3: Relative percentage of refugees against the number of inhabitants of the destination country.

We notice the effect even more when we use animated graph to show the results (Figure 4 generated with Google Charts). The pace of the countries going up the diagonal line shows the absolute and relative increase relating to their population.

Figure 4: Yearly evolution of the total number of refugee´s vs the relative population of each country.

Furthermore, there is a shared feeling also expressed by the Spanish Commission for RefugeeAid that the international reaction to the conflict hasn’t been as effective in ending this situation. Despite the UN Security Council having passed three agreements (2139, 2165, 2191) that are urging states to help protect refugees and aid the ending of the civil war we are still in a state of crisis.

This fact is backed up by the open data that we can find relating to the refugee shelter that is provided by countries outside of the conflict zone. With this fact we have taken the data set (resettlement statistics) from UNHCR databases and downloaded from data.world. The total number of sheltered refugees dating from March 2016 was 130955, only just 2.7% of the total number of people forced to leave Syria. The countries that are most openly welcoming refugees are Germany, Brazil and the U.K.

Figure 5: Country ranking varied depending on their level of shelter provided for refugees. (March 2016, UNHCR).


This is where our insight stops, however, we will aim to keep raising awareness with open information about this situation. The LUCA team hope that the magnitude of the civil war will plateau in 2017 and we hope to avoid having to report more figures about such a heart breaking atrocity.   

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