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Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

Skoll Centre for Social Entrepreneurship

Will Jones and Alexander Teytelboym: Implementing the Local Refugee Match

2016/17 Skoll Centre Research Accelerator Grant

This project applies the latest insights from matching theory to make refugee resettlement work better for refugees and hosting communities.

When a refugee is given asylum in a particular country, the refugee has practically no choice about where in the country they will end up. Moreover, local authorities are usually simply told which refugees they should accept and they have little or no input or control. This approach respects neither the agency and preferences of refugees nor the hosting capacities and priorities of local governments. At the governmental level, the difficulties of manually matching refugees to local areas are making relocation painfully slow (only 353 out of the targeted 20,000 Syrian refugees to be hosted in Britain by 2020 had actually been moved by the end of 2015) and yet the current procedure often places refugees in areas where they are poorly provided for.

The Local Refugee Match is a digital platform that will:

  1. Develop a public database of local authorities that are participating in the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme.
  2. Create an interface to help refugees express their preferences to the resettlement agency about the local areas in which they want to be resettled.

Future project expansion (dependent on funding) will:

  1. Allow us to crowdsource relevant data from local areas.
  2. Extend the Local Refugee Match beyond the UK.

Moreover, we are working with resettlement agencies around the world in order to develop in-house databases and matching systems for effective and humane resettlement. We analyse the current refugee profiles and local area information (including their constraints) in order to improve the quality of initial matches using combinatorial optimization. In the future, these systems will allow us to incorporate additional information about refugees’ preferences collected by the Local Refugee Match.

The systems we are working on are applicable not only to the present crisis but also to many future refugee resettlement schemes. The project’s novel interdisciplinary approach will work at the intersection of operations research, economics, software engineering, entrepreneurship, politics and abstract theory to address the current refugee crisis in a pragmatic, straightforward and politically palatable way.

For more information and media mentions:


Dr Will Jones is a Lecturer in International Relations at Royal Holloway, University of London, and a former Departmental Lecturer at Department of International Development's Refugee Studies Centre at the University of Oxford.

Alexander Teytelboym is an economist and Research Fellow at the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School, University of Oxford.

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