Innovative algorithm helps Ukrainian refugees find new homes

Following the success of ANNIE MOORE in 2018 – the first software developed to optimise resettlement outcomes for refugees – Alex Teytelboym has collaborated with HIAS and Andrew Trapp from Worcester Polytechnic Institute again to create another pioneering matching algorithm. The new platform, known as RUTH (which stands for Refugees Uniting Through HIAS) improves upon the previous version by allowing refugees and hosts to be matched through consideration of their preferences, thereby making the relocation process faster and more transparent, according to the developers:

“This is the first time ever that preferences of refugees and priorities of hosts have been systematically used in the resettlement process,” said Dr Trapp, Associate Professor of Operations and Industrial Engineering at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, “This is the first time ever that preferences of refugees and priorities of hosts have been systematically used in the resettlement process.”

Oxford Department of Economics Associate Professor Alex Teytelboym, added:

“We think people are more likely to thrive in places where they prefer to live. Citizens are given a choice about almost anything of such consequence — so why shouldn’t refugees?”

The platform has already achieved evident success in the form of the resettling of Odessa residents Max and Yuna* who fled Ukraine on the day the Russian invasion began in February 2022.

The couple, both in their early 20s, spent several months in Poland before they started applying for relocation to the United States with the help of HIAS in September. Max and Yuna were among the first to use RUTH; the new matching algorithm allowed them to list their preferences about where to be resettled, and any special requirements they might have.

Having arrived in the U.S. in November, they have now settled in the village of Huntington, New York, where they live in an apartment with their dog, Zhuzha. They knew from the beginning that they wanted to get to the New York City area, where Yuna has a friend with whom she has something important in common; “She sings for the Metropolitan Opera, and I’m an opera singer, too. So it’s a little connection that I had, the only one in America.”

The couple said their positive introduction to life in the U.S. has helped them cope with their sadness about leaving Ukraine, the difficulties communicating with relatives back home amid constant power outages, and the fear that they will never again see Max’s elderly relatives who are trapped in his Russian-occupied hometown in south-eastern Ukraine.

“We’re very grateful for HIAS that they invited us here in the first place,” Yuna said. “We will be grateful as long as we will be alive because it’s a very big decision for us to move so far from our home.”

HIAS is an organisation that works to provide vital services to refugees and asylum seekers around the world and advocates for their fundamental rights so they can rebuild their lives.

* First names only used for beneficiaries’ safety

Original version of this article written by Brian Zumhagen can be found on the HIAS website

refugee woman holds flag of Ukraine up to window