Real stories and facts about refugees are more important than ever

Airports all over the United States erupted in protests this past weekend after Trump’s executive order to temporarily ban refugees from certain countries went into effect. The ban, which focused on seven majority muslim countries, also included green card holders.  The impact was felt around the world as permanent residents and refugees found themselves detained at American airports or stranded overseas.


This week, Vignette Interactive launched a new website for UNICEF Lebanon that focuses on the impact of the Syrian conflict on child refugees. With the news this week centering around the challenges faced by refugees coming to America, I thought it was timely to look at some effective storytelling approaches featuring the refugee crisis in the U.S. and globally.


UNICEF came out with an animated series last year called ‘Unfairy Tales’. They are powerful stories voiced by of Syrian refugee children. The animations look like they could be made for children, but their stories are definitely for grownups. The result is a powerful account of the lives of these children.



Another interactive on refugees that is a great combination of photos and videos, was produced and created by Emily Kassie and Malia Polizter. The 21st Century Gold Rush is a look at who is profiting off the refugee crisis. It focuses on four different countries – Niger, Italy, Turkey and Germany, and how it is affecting the world economy.

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Once you click on a country, there is an in-depth investigation with text, photo and videos of how people are profiting off refugees in different places. Niger, Italy and Turkey focus on stories concerning mistreatment of displaced populations, while Germany’s story focuses on how a country is monetizing refugees, in a positive way that is beneficial for all sides.

You can also see a 360 of Germany’s largest refugee shelter.

As we watch news reports of people struggling to get into the United States, it’s important to remember how many people in the world died trying to find safe refuge. Thousands of refugees and migrants died trying to find a better life for themselves and their family, but it’s difficult to help people relate to such a large statistic. The interactive map, 15 years, tracks the deaths of people in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, who were trying to make their way to a safer place

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It’s devastating to watch the red dots grow and change in size as the years pass. Each circle represents a news headline about people dying, and if you click on it, you’ll see more information about each incident.


If you’ve seen other great storytelling examples about the Syrian refugee crisis, please share in the comments below.





By Tara Todras-Whitehill

Tara worked as a staff photographer for the Associated Press for four years in the Middle East, covering the uprisings, revolutions and numerous elections in the Arab world. Her photography has been featured in the New York Times, National Geographic and Washington Post, among many others. She also works on personal projects focused on women's issues. Her passion is trying to portray strong women changing their lives and the world around them.

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