The Migrants' Files

#MigrantsFiles unpacked

Jacopo Ottaviani – @JacopoOttaviani

1st investigation (March, 2014): "Counting the dead"

2nd investigation (18 June 2015): "The money trail"

#MigrantsFiles team

in numbers

  • 2 main investigations
    • Counting the dead
    • The money trail
  • 15+ media outlets involved in the co-publication
  • 20+ data journalists and coders from 15 countries
  • 1 centralised project management (Journalism++)

Key data sources for "Counting the dead"

  • 3 data sources combined:
    • Fortress Europe by Gabriele del Grande
    • United for Intercultural Action network of NGOs
    • Puls, a project run by the University of Helsinki
  • On-going: the team continues to collect intelligence on the deaths of Europe’s would-be emigrants, mainly from news

Key insights from "Counting the dead"

  • 31,478 dead and missing from 1/2000 to 11/2015
  • Main (known) causes of death: Drowning and starvation
  • 2011, 2014 and 2015 deadliest years
  • Data:

Some data sources for "The Money Trail"

  • Eurostat & European institutions (e.g. Eulisa)
  • National administrations 
  • report
  • Middle East Institute (
  • News (for amounts paid to smugglers)
  • Data:

Key insights from "The Money Trail"

  • 11.3 billion euro spent by EU to close deport migrants
  • 1.6 billion euro spent by EU to develop technologies to protect its frontiers
  • Over the past 15 years, refugees have paid a staggering 15.7 billion euro to travel to Europe (excluding flights)
  • Project examples: drones, walls, boats given to the Libyan govt, robots and sniffing sensors

TMF methodology and sourcecodes:

  • Github:


  • Columbia Journalism Review 

  • NiemanLab

Like a mosaic: took different pieces (data), composed them together (merge), removed those that did not fit (i.e. de-duplication)

and showed the result (visualisation)

But also on Twitter @MigrantsFiles

All #MigrantsFiles are released under Open Database License.

Main audiences

  • International media (multi-lingual, cross-european)
  • NGOs
  • European Union and EU institutions
  • Aimed at raising awareness in the Global North and becoming a tool for advocacy

Cecilia Malmström: Swedish politician who has served as EC for Trade since 2014, having previously served as European Commissioner for Home Affairs from 2010 to 2014

Why TMF is good for the general audience too:

  • Data helps to get the right sense of proportion
  • Provides a bird's eye view on migration in Europe
  • Moves the debate's axis from "opinions" to "facts"

DESPERATE CROSSING – New York Times Magazine

All data, references and stories here:

Thank you!


Twitter @JacopoOttaviani