Speaking of technology, a U.S. refugee resettlement agency is testing an algorithm to help place refugees in optimal locations across the country. Since last summer, the HIAS, a Jewish American nonprofit group, has been using a software program called “Annie,” named for the first immigrant registered at Ellis Island. Annie uses data on past refugee resettlements and current available options to recommend a city where an individual or family is most likely to succeed. A human worker reviews the recommendations before placing refugees.
Researchers at the Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts, Lund University in Sweden, and Oxford University in England developed the software. It examines things like age, education level, and available jobs in an area to find the optimal placement for refugees. In the past, workers based placements mainly on where refugees’ language was spoken and which cities had space.
“Many people think that once a family is resettled, they continue to be supported by the government,” said Mike Mitchell, HIAS’ associate vice president of U.S. programs. “But in the United States, this simply isn’t true. Refugees are expected to obtain employment very quickly and start supporting themselves. This technology has been key to helping our regional offices connect relatively straightforward resettlement cases with new homes and communities where they are more likely to thrive in their jobs.” —C.C.