IBM J. Res. Dev

A machine learning approach to scenario analysis and forecasting of mixed migration

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The development of MM4SIGHT, a machine learning system that enables annual forecasts of mixed-migration flows, is presented. Mixed migration refers to cross-border movements of people that are motivated by a multiplicity of factors to move including refugees fleeing persecution and conflict, victims of trafficking, and people seeking better lives and opportunity. Such populations have a range of legal status, some of which are not reflected in official government statistics. The system combines institutional estimates of migration along with in-person monitoring surveys to establish a migration volume baseline. The surveys reveal clusters of migratory drivers of populations on the move. Given macrolevel indicators that reflect migratory drivers found in the surveys, we develop an ensemble model to determine the volume of migration between source and host country along with uncertainty bounds. Using more than 80 macroindicators, we present results from a case study of migratory flows from Ethiopia to six countries. Our evaluations show error rates for annual forecasts to be within a few thousand persons per year for most destinations.