Motives to flee: modeling the Syrian refugee crisis

#Discuss the overall problem and decompose into sub problems or challenges which will subsequently be the topics of the final project

In this problem we would like to uncover motives for the people for moving one place another. Due to
the crisis in Syria Since 2011, people started fleeing Syria to neighboring countries such as Iraq, Jordan,
Egypt, Lebanon and Turkey within few years Syrian refugees are now scattered all over the world. 2015’s
European mainstream media voices were loud of Syrian (and other) refugee flows. However, this
phenomenon caused perhaps the starkest division of European right and left ideological sides so far in the
history of the Union, with the axial question posed by Europeans being the motivation of people fueling
what the mainstream media calls the largest migration postbellum. This strongly divides the European
nations referring to the flow of people as refugees and migrants, terms sometimes used interchangeably
but at other times as a clear distinguishment between actual war refugees and economic migrants.

Although it seems obvious why people flee, people didn’t leave just for one event. Some run for their life,
and some flee to for better apportion ties somewhere else - and different factors. Safety of the family and
better life are at the center of this action. We see some people taking extreme course of action in their
trip that caused many deaths of their loved ones.

Moreover, people’s motives start to change over time and maybe distance from home location. for
example many people left home mainly due fear of death, while some leave due to shortage of resources
(water, electricity, sewerage, ) and disruption of services (education, health, …) or due to lifestyle. Once
people reach a safe place they ideal place changes. Now they are looking for with better education for
their kids, better job opportunities, or better health or shelter. Some motive might even get more complex
and may see returnees. It is also important to note that Syrians are in fact barely even the single largest
group of people knocking on the doors of Europe now – being matched in numbers by Afghanis, also
fleeing from conflict and havoc. However, unquestionably under the umbrella of the Syrian refugee crisis,
many other, previously smaller flows have been reactivated and intensified from East and West Africa,
Central Asia, as well as non-EU member Balkan states.

Throughout this project we will try to illustrate the demographical dynamics of the Syrian refugee flows.
Due to space and time limitations we will try to create a global model, but we concentrate and will be
collecting data about people in camps. Also finding different paths people take to reach their destination.
Eventually our aim is to build a mathematical model for the people’s migration patterns and course of
their trip, possibly dynamically highlighting and categorizing the motivation triggers behind their decision
to undertake such an endeavor.

Our final goal is to understand the motives of the people for the migration in hope of better utilization of
the available resources to provide the best chance of integration and conflict management. We hope that
our work can reduce fatality and injuries along their journey. And maybe we can help provide solution
that eliminate or shorten the trip.

#Identify the main technical challenge which need to be overcome to perform the intended research

There are many technical issues related to this problem. From getting the data to understanding real
motives and knowing what constraints limit their movement.

There are two types of data that the main data provider for this work, the United Nations Higher
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR):

  • Aggregate yearly datasets on number of people divided by major refugee status types
  • High granularity, potentially weekly data, reported by the UNHCR camp management sites in the
    adjacent countries to the Syrian conflict (Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Egypt)

Data available in UNHCR camp directorates are not in the same format. First, getting data from UNHCR is
not easy since their data is saved in PDF formats and we’ve been trying to contact them directly to get
better data. Also, each country collect data in their own way. Some collect granular data up to the
individuals. While others just collect data for camps or for cities.

Different namings for refugees exist in different jurisdictions. In neighboring countries of Syria, since it is administrated by UNHCR, refugees are similar in status, but upon going to Europe they are called asylum
seeker which seems to differ from country to country.

The other challenging part of our project is choosing and applying and perhaps modifying the right
mathematical migration model. There are many different ways to model human migration, and each has
it’s own pros and cons. We will be sampling the most important of these in the literature review section
of this proposal.