Missing Migrants

Interactive Data Visualisation

This interactive data visualisation draws focus to all the refugees who did not survive their arduous escape across the Mediterranean Sea towards Europe. The viewer is taken on a journey from Africa to Europe and can see impressively where, how many refugees have disappeared and perished and for what reasons.



This data visualisation was created in the second semester at the HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd as part of the course Fundamentals of Design in the three-dimensional space, supervised by Prof. Dr. Franklyn Hernandez-Castro.

Our task was to visualise a data set and to create further informative levels through interactions. The aim was to create information and insights from data. 


War, violence, political persecution, hunger and poverty are just some of the reasons why people have to flee their home countries. The media usually only covers the refugees arriving here and the problems associated with them. Far too rarely, however, are reports about those people who do not survive their journey across the Mediterranean.

By visualising the data set of the Missing Migrants Project, we wanted to tell this story from a different perspective. 



In the Missing Migrants Projects, organisations record the deaths of migrants, including refugees and asylum seekers, who have disappeared along mixed migration routes around the world. Each entry is a recorded incident, with one or more people involved. 

However, the resulting dataset and existing visualisations are too abstract and too clinical to convey the emotional scope of the issue. Especially the purely number-based statistics are completely interchangeable and leave out the aspect of the human beings and their fates. It is precisely these stories that we wanted to tell by focusing on the journey of the refugees.

Data Cleaning

The dataset includes entries on migration routes all over the world. In our visualisation, we wanted to limit ourselves to the Mediterranean region in order to draw attention specifically to the European refugee crisis. 

In doing so, we did not want to label the respective region with mere unemotional figures, but rather take the viewer along on the journey of the refugees via the Mediterranean route.

In a simplified cross-section of the route, the three main sections of Africa, the Mediterranean and Europe are depicted in abstract form. We have built up the further visualisation on this basis. 


Each incident is shown in the form of a bar. These are arranged according to their latitude along the X-axis. The height of the bars indicates the number of refugees who died in the accident. The cause of death is indicated by the colour coding. In the upper section of the visualisation, the number of victims is grouped by cause of death. 


After the intro, the bars build up in an introductory animation from left to right along the X-axis. This is intended to create a semantic reference to the refugees journey along the Mediterranean route. 


Hovering over the incidence bars provides additional information about the respective incident. The number of confirmed deaths and missing individuals as well as the date of the incident are displayed. Relative bars turn into precise numbers that illustrate the extent of the tragedy.

By hovering over the cause of death sections of the upper bar, the incidence bars on the route cross-section are highlighted with the corresponding cause of death. This gives the numbers from the relative bar a geographical component. The data is related to the journey.


Making Data User friendly

Every day, unimaginable amounts of data are collected and stored. Parts of it are automatically processed by algorithms. The rest, however, has no value if we as humans are not able to understand or even interpret the correlations behind the data masses. Data visualisations are a way of translating a multitude of abstract values into information constructs through visual encoding. Ideally, this gives a broad mass of people access to information, insights and recommendations for action that they would otherwise have been denied.


  • Interactive Data Visualization
  • Grundlagen der Gestaltung im dreidimensionalen Raum
  • HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd


  • October 2019 (3 Weeks)

My Contributions

  • Research & conceptualisation
  • Programming (JavaScript)
  • Film edit

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