Tuesday, May 16, 2023

Modeling Forced Migration

At the upcoming Annual Modeling and Simulation Conference (ANNSIM) we have several papers being presented. One of which is with Troy Curry and Arie Croitoru entitled "Modeling Forced Migration: A System Dynamic Approach." In this paper we study how forced migration can be modeled through a systems dynamics perspective. 
To some extent this  paper builds upon our previous work on refugees especially making use new open data sources that allow us to study forced migration. Using ideas from  systems thinking which incorporates notions  non-linearity, interconnectedness, relationships, causality and feedbacks we build a systems dynamics model of the Syrian refugee crisis from January 2012 until December 2018. The model itself  explores refugee-producing variables that have been linked as determinants of forced migration including human rights violations, political violence, generalized violence, and civil war. We use these refugee-producing variables  to simulate the flow of refugees from Syria to Greece, Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan. 
If this sounds of interest, below you can read the abstract of the model, see a high-level causal loop diagram for our forced migration model along with our validation attempts  such as comparing predicted system dynamics model refugee counts vs. reference United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) refugee counts. We also have included a movie of one such model scenario however,  readers can also run the model here. Finally at the bottom of the page you can find the full reference to paper along with a link to a pre-print.


Forced migration of populations is a topic of increasingly national and international importance due to security, international relations, and humanitarian considerations. Despite its importance, there has been a dearth of quantitative research to support modeling and simulation of this topic, thus hindering our ability to better understand this phenomenon. Motivated by this gap, this research leverages the recent availability of diverse set of data related to forced migration, including regime legitimacy, violence, human rights violations, conflict, socio-political mobilization, intervening opportunities, and social media. The purpose of this article is to explore the applicability and utility of open-source data in a system dynamics model to forecast population displacement, and to illustrate the benefits of using a system dynamics approach to modeling displaced population on a national and international scale. Our results suggest that this proposed approach can be used to understand such migration processes and simulate possible scenarios.

Keywords: forced migration, refugee, system dynamics, prediction model, Middle East.

High-level causal loop diagram for forced migration.

Migration routes in simulation (i.e., Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan).

Simulation refugee counts for paths to different countries (i.e., Greece, Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan).

Model validation - comparing predicted system dynamics model refugee counts vs. reference UNHCR refugee counts.

Full reference:

Curry, T., Croitoru, A. and Crooks, A.T. (2023), Modeling Forced Migration: A System Dynamic Approach, The Annual Modeling and Simulation Conference (ANNSIM), Hamilton, ON. (pdf)

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