Desperate Journeys

By Ibrahim T. Ghanem

Geovis Project Assignment @RyersonGeo, SA8905, Fall 2019


Over the past 20 years, Asylum Seekers have invented many travel routes between Africa, Europe and Middle East in order be able to reach a country of Asylum. Many governmental and non-governmental provided information about those irregular travel routes used by Asylum Seekers. In this context, this geovisualization project aims at compiling and presenting two dimensions of this topic: (1) a comprehensive animated spider map presenting some of the travel routes between the above mentioned three geographic areas; (2) develop a dashboard that connects those routes to other statistics about refugees in a user-friendly interface. In that sense, the best software to fit the project is Tableau.

Data and Technology

Creation of Spider maps at Tableau is perfect for connecting hubs to surrounding point as it allows paths between many origins and destinations. Besides, it can comprehend multiple layers. Below is a description of the major steps for the creation of the animated map and dashboard.

Also, Dashboards are now very useful in combining different themes of data (i.e. pie-charts, graphs, and maps), and accordingly, they are used extensively in non-profit world to present data about a certain cause. The Geovisualiztion Project applied geocoding approach to come up with the animated map and the dashboard.

The Data used to create the project included the following:

-Origins and Destinations of Refugees

-Number of Refugees hosted by each country

-Count of Refugees arriving by Sea (2010-2015)

-Demographics of Refugees arriving by Sea – 2015

Below is a brief description of the steps followed to create the project

Step 1: Data Sources:

The data was collected from the below sources.

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Human Rights Watch, Vox, InfoMigrants, The Geographical Association of UK, RefWorld, Broder Free Association for Human Rights, and Frontex Europa.

However, most of the data are not geocoded. Accordingly, Google Sheets was used in Geocoding 21 routes, and thereafter each Route was given a distinguishing ID and a short description of the route.

Step 2: Utilizing the Main Dataset:

Data is imported from an excel sheet. In order to compute a route, Tableau requires data about origins,and destination with latitude and longitude. In that aspect, the data contains different categories:

A-Route I.D. It is a unique path I.D. for each route of the 21 routes;

B-Order of Points: It is the order of stations travelled by refugees from their country of origin to country of Asylum;

C-Year: the year in which the route was invented;

D-Latitude/Longitude: it is the coordinates of the each station;

F-Country: It is the country hosting Refugees;

E- Population: Number of refugees hosted in each country.

Step 3: Building the Map View:

The map view was built by putting longitude in columns, latitude in rows, Route I.D. at details, and selecting the mark type as line. In order to enhance the layout, Oder of Points was added to Marks’ Path, and changing it to dimensions instead of SUM.  Finally, to bring stations of travel, another layer was added to by putting another longitude to columns, and changing it to Dual Axis. To create filtration by Route, and timeline by year, route was added Filter while year was added to page.

Step 4: Identifying Routes:

To differentiate routes from each other by distinct colours, the route column was added to colours, and the default setting was changed to Tableau 20. And Layer format wash changed to dark to have a contrast between the colours of the routes and the background.

Step 5: Editing the Map:

After finishing up with the map formation. A video was captured by QuickStart and edited by iMovie to be cropped and merged.

Step 6: Creating the Choropleth map and Symbology:

In another sheet, a set of excel data (obtained from UNHCR) was uploaded to create a Chropoleth map that would display number of refugees hosted by each country by year 2018. Count of refugees was added to columns while Country was added to rows. The Marks’ colour ramp of orange-gold, with 4 classes was added to indicate whether or not the country is hosting a significant number of refugees. Hovering over each country would display the name of the country and number of refugees it hosts.

Step 7: Statistical Graphs:

A pie-chart and a graph were added to display some other statistics related to count of Refugees arriving by Sea from Africa to Europe, and the demographics of those refugees arriving by sea. Demographics was added to label to display them on the charts.

Step 8: Creation of the Dashboard:

All four sheets were added in the dashboard section through dragging them into the layer view. To comprehend that amount of data explanation, size was selected as legal landscape. Title was given to the Dashboard as Desperate Journeys.


A- Tableau does not allow the map creator to change the projection of the maps; thus, presentation of maps is limited. Below is a picture showing the final format of the dashboard:

B-Tableau has an online server that can host dashboard; nevertheless, it cannot publish animated maps. Thus, the animated maps is uploaded here a video. The below link can lead the viewer to the dashboard:

C-Due to unavailability of geocoded data, geocoding the routes of refugees’ migration consumed time to fine out the exact routes taken be refugees. These locations were based on the reports and maps released by the sources mentioned at the very beginning of the post.