Working Paper

Forecasting Bilateral Refugee Flows with High-dimensional Data and Machine Learning Techniques


  • Boss
  • K.
  • Gröger
  • A.
  • Heidland
  • T.
  • Krüger
  • F.
  • Zheng
  • C.
Publication Date

We develop monthly refugee flow forecasting models for 150 origin countries to the EU27, using machine learning and high-dimensional data, including digital trace data from Google Trends. Comparing different models and forecasting horizons and validating them out-of-sample, we find that an ensemble forecast combining Random Forest and Extreme Gradient Boosting algorithms consistently outperforms for forecast horizons between 3 to 12 months. For large refugee flow corridors, this holds in a parsimonious model exclusively based on Google Trends variables, which has the advantage of close-to-real-time availability. We provide practical recommendations about how our approach can enable ahead-of-period refugee forecasting applications.

Kiel Institute Expert


JEL Classification
C53, C55, F22

Key Words

  • Asylum Seekers
  • Forced Migration
  • Forecasting
  • Google Trends
  • Machine Learning
  • Migration
  • Refugee Flows