This animated map shows the scale and direction of the migrant crisis

Flows to the UK in 2013. Image: Lucify.

Whether you think European countries should take in more of the refugees attempting to escape the political situation in Syria or not, we can all agree on one thing: the number of displaced people constitutes a crisis. By most estimates, in fact, this is the biggest refugee crisis Europe has faced since World War II. 

It can be a little hard to visualise how all this mass movement of people is playing out, and how what's happening now fits into the larger historical context. Enter Finnish data visualisation website Lucify. Someone has used its platform to animate UN asylum seeker data since 2012 to show where asylum seekers have come from, and where they've gone. This screenshot shows the movement in May of this year (the white bars represent how many refugees each country has taken during the current crisis): 

A brief glance at the animation (you can see it in motion here) gives you a good idea of the situation, but the details take a little more unpacking.

Each one of those blobs (they move like tadpoles, inexplicably) represents 25 people. A bar along the top of the map represents the date; it's also a graph, showing how many asylum seekers were on the move on different dates. It does a good job of demonstrating the scale of the situation this year:

The visualisation doesn't quite reach the present day yet, but the site also has static charts showing asylum seeker movement in each month. Here's the one for September 2015. The countries on the left are where asylum seekers have come from; on the right are their destinations:

The figure for Serbia bears out the fact that the areas close to countries in crisis tend to take in the most displaced people. It's also worth noting that, at the moment, this chart is missing data for the United Kingdom, among other countries. 

One final visualisation shows quite clearly how low a proportion Syrian refugees are actually arriving in Europe in the first place. These football fields represent the Syrian refugees who have sought refuge in Europe since April 2011 – around 500,000 of them:

And these represent the ones who have sought refuge in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq, Egypt and North Africa. Around 4m of them.

Rather puts it into perspective, doesn't it.


What's actually in the UK government’s bailout package for Transport for London?

Wood Green Underground station, north London. Image: Getty.

On 14 May, hours before London’s transport authority ran out of money, the British government agreed to a financial rescue package. Many details of that bailout – its size, the fact it was roughly two-thirds cash and one-third loan, many conditions attached – have been known about for weeks. 

But the information was filtered through spokespeople, because the exact terms of the deal had not been published. This was clearly a source of frustration for London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, who stood to take the political heat for some of the ensuing cuts (to free travel for the old or young, say), but had no way of backing up his contention that the British government made him do it.

That changed Tuesday when Transport for London published this month's board papers, which include a copy of the letter in which transport secretary Grant Shapps sets out the exact terms of the bailout deal. You can read the whole thing here, if you’re so minded, but here are the three big things revealed in the new disclosure.

Firstly, there’s some flexibility in the size of the deal. The bailout was reported to be worth £1.6 billion, significantly less than the £1.9 billion that TfL wanted. In his letter, Shapps spells it out: “To the extent that the actual funding shortfall is greater or lesser than £1.6bn then the amount of Extraordinary Grant and TfL borrowing will increase pro rata, up to a maximum of £1.9bn in aggregate or reduce pro rata accordingly”. 

To put that in English, London’s transport network will not be grinding to a halt because the government didn’t believe TfL about how much money it would need. Up to a point, the money will be available without further negotiations.

The second big takeaway from these board papers is that negotiations will be going on anyway. This bail out is meant to keep TfL rolling until 17 October; but because the agency gets around three-quarters of its revenues from fares, and because the pandemic means fares are likely to be depressed for the foreseeable future, it’s not clear what is meant to happen after that. Social distancing, the board papers note, means that the network will only be able to handle 13 to 20% of normal passenger numbers, even when every service is running.

Shapps’ letter doesn’t answer this question, but it does at least give a sense of when an answer may be forthcoming. It promises “an immediate and broad ranging government-led review of TfL’s future financial position and future financial structure”, which will publish detailed recommendations by the end of August. That will take in fares, operating efficiencies, capital expenditure, “the current fiscal devolution arrangements” – basically, everything. 

The third thing we leaned from that letter is that, to the first approximation, every change to London’s transport policy that is now being rushed through was an explicit condition of this deal. Segregated cycle lanes, pavement extensions and road closures? All in there. So are the suspension of free travel for people under 18, or free peak-hours travel for those over 60. So are increases in the level of the congestion charge.

Many of these changes may be unpopular, but we now know they are not being embraced by London’s mayor entirely on their own merit: They’re being pushed by the Department of Transport as a condition of receiving the bailout. No wonder Khan was miffed that the latter hadn’t been published.

Jonn Elledge was founding editor of CityMetric. He is on Twitter as @jonnelledge and on Facebook as JonnElledgeWrites.