100 Days of Displaced Data

Written by Hannah Tales

HeThis month we reached the climax of our 100 Days of Displaced Data, a century of daily Tweets pulled from our self-funded research into the refugee crisis. The continuous nature of the initiative was designed to illustrate the permanence of the issue, and even now, though the Tweets have come to an end, our work with The Worldwide Tribe has not yet finished. The article below featured in the MRS Impact’s June edition and reported on some of the key findings from the project.

In October 2016, the semi-permanent refugee camp in Calais, known as ‘The Jungle’, was cleared of an estimated 8,136 inhabitants after the closure by French authorities. The lucky ones were relocated to temporary centres outside of Calais, while others, scared and alone, fled the burning embers of The Jungle to seek refuge elsewhere. The camera crews and reporters left along with them and the story soon departed our TV screens as if the problem had simply disappeared.

Since then, grassroots charity The Worldwide Tribe has been working tirelessly to educate people that an issue of this size cannot be extinguished by the closure of a camp. The charity is finding that it can generate significant impact by using qualitative research techniques, focusing on individual stories and capturing in-the-moment ethnographic footage as opposed to anonymous news reels. Through its work, The Worldwide Tribe has been able to provide support and donations to what is in fact a growing number of refugees across Europe, who – out of sight of the TV cameras – remain victims of a humanitarian crisis on a global scale.

In 2017, RDSi launched a collaboration with The Worldwide Tribe to help it understand how the crisis is viewed from the UK with the goal of driving further support to the cause through grants, support and increasing public awareness. The collaboration has culminated in a large piece of pro bono research, designed to understand how the refugee crisis ranks within the UK public’s charitable spectrum, and whether it is empathy, or apathy, that is most commonly felt for those displaced by war, persecution and natural disaster.

The research identified that for most UK adults, their prioritisation of charitable causes could be somewhat likened to a field of vision; they typically find it much easier to focus on the issues that are immediately in their sightline as opposed to those further away. Using implicit response testing (IRT), RDSi found that UK adults were more inclined to say that ‘close proximity’ issues such as cancer, the elderly and animal welfare were higher priority charitable causes than the refugee crisis, and they were also significantly quicker to reach that conclusion . In comparison, only half of respondents felt that the refugee crisis was a high priority, taking longer to bring that answer into focus. Using the research, RDSi were able to consider and quantify some of the factors that may be contributing to that longer consideration time.

For some, the data shows us that it is a lack of understanding of the issue that is causing hesitation, with three-quarters of participants claiming to have little to no knowledge about the refugee crisis. This lack of understanding can lead to inaccuracies in the way the UK views the refugee crisis, and this can lead to misconceptions. When presented with a series of individual stories, a third of participants were unable to accurately identify a refugee as an individual displaced by war, commonly confusing them with asylum seekers, economic migrants and illegal immigrants.

The research delves deeper into this aspect and illustrates that these misconceptions can often create dangerous negative feelings. 56% of UK adults in the survey believe there is a direct relationship between the arrival of refugees and an increase in terrorism, and more than half associate the acceptance of refugees into the UK with a feeling of being less safe. This can lead to a dissociation with the cause (45% believe refugees are not their problem) and in some cases opposition (40% think the UK has its own problems and has no obligation to refugees).

In time, work by charities such as The Worldwide Tribe should help to educate the UK population on the plight of refugees and give people the correct knowledge and understanding with which they can make an informed decision as to whether they see the cause to be a worthy one.