Data visualizations to bring attention to illegal pushbacks


Push-backs are a set of state measures by which refugees and migrants are forced back over a border without considering individual circumstances and allowing them to apply for asylum. Mare Liberum gathers data on the illegal practice at the Mediterranean sea and publishes documentation on observed occurrences. Supporting their mission through data, CorrelAid has helped to conduct data analysis and provide visualisations for their annual report and consulted them on data collection and storage.

The Challenge

Mare Liberum

Mare Liberum e. V. monitors the observance of human rights for refugees in the Aegean Sea. With our two ships and from land we document the situation on the dangerous flight route between Turkey and Greece, as well as on the Greek islands. The goal is to document human rights violations, such as pushbacks, and to draw attention to them. In 2020 alone, we were able to count 312 incidents in which 9,798 people were illegally pushed back. Through our work, we aim to strengthen solidarity and fundamental human rights. Mare Liberum is politically and religiously independent and is financed exclusively through donations. (Source)

Mare Liberum started to build a database of documented cases of pushbacks in March 2020. Their main goal is to communicate and visually present the findings of their work for advocacy, PR and reporting. Prior to their collaboration with CorrelAid, however, the data was sparsely used.

The Data

The data consisted of an Excel sheet with just over 300 documented cases of pushbacks (rows) and 15 variables with further information. The variables provide information such as the location and date of the incident, the number of people involved and other information about the sources.

The Solution

The CorrelAid team cleaned the data set, extracted additional variables and produced various data visualisations for the annual report of Mare Liberum. The initial cleaning of the data was done in Python, but the subsequent analysis was done in R, as some prior knowledge of the programming language was already held by the organisation, ensuring sustainability of the data product. Lastly, the team developed an approach on how Mare Liberum may collect and store data in the future to increase data quality.

The Impact

The Data4Good project empowered Mare Liberum to use existing valuable data and leverage it for advocacy, PR and reporting in a coherent and convincing manner. The created visualizations for the annual pushback report contribute to increasing the visibility and attention of the issue. Through the enhancing of data quality, the organization will be able to generate deeper and more reliable insights on the practice of illegal pushbacks in the Mediterranian sea. Due to the use of exisiting knowledge inside the organization, the Data4Good project is not only impactful but also sustainable.


Pushback Report

Presentation at CorrelCon 2021

CorrelAid Team

Sarah Wenzel

Long Nguyen

Martin Wong

Lukas Gröninger