Understanding refugee needs in Europe: leveraging data and machine learning for effective support

Published by: University of Zurich
Published at 05/06/2023 Last update 30/08/2023
Population and society
International issues

This DT story highlights the development of an automated tool for identifying refugee needs in the context of the Ukraine Refugee Crisis. Leveraging publicly available data from the Telegram messaging service, it is possible to utilize machine learning algorithms to cluster messages and identify key problem areas faced by refugees in Europe. The solution would offer insights into eight primary problem clusters, such as medical care, accommodation, transportation, government services, and more.


Problem or opportunity

Refugee management often adopts a top-down approach, with limited focus on identifying the specific needs of the refugee population. With the ongoing Ukraine Refugee Crisis, Europe faces an influx of refugees from Ukraine, and understanding the problems they face in their host countries becomes crucial. However, the administrative processes across European Union member states vary, making it challenging to identify and address the diverse needs of refugees. This gap would be filled by a comprehensive monitoring system that can:

  • identify the most pressing problems faced by refugees within Europe;
  • providing insights into the varying needs across different countries and over time;
  • enable more effective and targeted support for refugees.


Expected benefits

By adopting a bottom-up approach, the solution to be developed should revolutionize refugee management and support the refugee community in Europe. The anticipated benefits of the solution include:

  • Improved visibility of refugee needs within Europe and individual countries.
  • Clustering analysis that accommodates multiple languages, facilitating a broader understanding of needs.
  • Comparative analysis of different clusters and their evolution over time.
  • Potential for real-time deployment of the system to enhance responsiveness.
  • Scalability to address refugee crises beyond the Ukraine Refugee Crisis.
  • Empowerment of the refugee community by amplifying their voices and needs.
  • Identification of trends and patterns, including pioneer roles among countries and the spread of common needs.
  • Data-driven insights to inform policies and enhance public services for refugees across Europe.

Author: Kilian Sprenkamp