American and European scientists are testing a new algorithm that would ease resettlement of refugees and boost their chances of finding employment.
In a paper published in Science last week, scientists say the algorithm analyses biographical factors including age, gender, language skills, and country of origin of the immigrant, to find the best location to resettle a refugee in any given country, and improve their chances of getting a job by as much as 70 per cent.
The process of resettling involves feeding the algorithm with key factors, such as capacity at resettlement agencies at each location, the algorithm the uses a series of models trained to predict where a refugee is likely to fare best based on previous cases.
The model WAS developed by Jens Hainmueller, a professor in the Department of Political Science at Stanford University, and Kirk Bansak, a PhD candidate at Stanford’s Immigration Policy Lab.
The decision on the final re-settlement location for refugees would still be made by a resettlement officer, but those decisions will be informed by the data sorted by the algorithm.
The researchers, who used the technology to study historical data on refugee resettlement in the United States and Switzerland, found that eventually the economic self-sufficiency of refugees depended on a combination of their individual biographical characteristics and where they were resettled within the country.
According to the findings, refugees with certain skills or background achieved better outcomes in some locations than others, and likelihood of an individual refugee finding employment could be roughly doubled by implementing the algorithm assigned placements for refugees.
“Host countries’ current procedures for determining how to allocate refugees across domestic resettlement sites do not fully leverage synergies between refugees and geographic locations,” the researchers said in the report.
Solving refugee problem
While the technology is yet to be deployed in real life, the researchers believe it could help solve the world’s refugee problem which hit crisis levels in 2016 with about 65.6 million people forcibly displaced worldwide.
According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), sub-Saharan Africa hosts more than 26 per cent of the world’s refugee population with over 18 million people in the region marked as of concern to UNHCR.
More than 2.25 million South Sudanese refugees fled their war-torn country to neighbouring Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Sudan as at July 2017, with thousands estimated to cross the border to Uganda every day.
In November 2013, Kenya, Somalia and the UNHCR signed a tripartite agreement for the voluntary repatriation of Somali refugees living in Kenya but the process has been slow due to several challenges including lack of resources, insecurity in Somalia and opposition by human rights groups.
More than 150,000 people are said to attempt to reach Europe through Libya — the main gateway — by sea annually for the last three years, but most of them end up as slaves in Libya due to increased anti-immigration efforts in Europe.