The Migration Machine

The Migration Machine

Organisation: Reuters (United States)

Publication Date: 04/07/2017


The European Union formed partly on the idea of open borders. But when a million migrants and refugees entered in 2015, states began erecting barriers. Its passport-free Schengen zone is now riven by fences and border controls intended to curb migration. This package, starting with an interactive map, shows how the barriers went up over time, how each change impacted the primary route migrants took into the EU from the Middle East and Africa, and how Turkey ended up as Europe’s primary gatekeeper. Accompanying timelines, culled from Reuters content, illustrated how the barriers are not just dividing countries. They also are splitting societies, Europe’s political leaders, and, critics say, its stated humanitarian ideals.

What makes this project innovative? What was its impact?

The project combines an engaging interactive and chronological map with data and deep, country-specific timelines that enable web visitors to immerse themselves in the story of Europe’s efforts to fortress itself against migration. With extensive detailed reporting across the region, Reuters was the first to verify and collate data about the cost and extent of fence-building by European countries in their efforts to keep migrants out. This produced the eye-opening finding that since 1989, European countries had spent at least $500 million euros on 1,200 kilometres of anti-migrant fencing, most of it built since 2015. Reporters collected and analyzed asylum application and migrant arrival data in affected countries to show how the walls affected the flow of migrant traffic. The package allowed users to engage at any level – from a cursory step-through of the map on down to a deep exploration of the news developments that drove various countries to erect barriers. We drew on a database cataloging six years of Reuters migration stories, photos and video from all over the globe for deep background on the history of the crisis. Other media have focused on drama, shock and anecdote in Europe’s migration crisis. No other single source has done as much as the Migration Machine to boost understanding of the phenomenon in its entirety. The project got wide pickup on social media, with Tweets by world diplomats, members of the European Parliament, NGO directors and academics. It won praise both for its journalistic impact and for its storytelling. The map was featured in a 2016 book by migration experts Peter Tinti and Tuesday Reitano, “Migrant, Refugee, Smuggler, Saviour,” which examined the economics of people smuggling.

Technologies used for this project:

Microsoft SQL Server, Django/Python, Javascript, HTML, CSS, ArcGIS
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