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A Guide to Ethical Research with Refugees and Displaced People

By Christina Clark-Kazak

Research can contribute to a better understanding of the diverse experiences of forced migration. When done well such research can inform policy and programming, but it can also cause inconvenience and harm to research respondents. In situations of forced migration, the stakes are particularly high because of precarious legal status, unequal power relations, far-reaching anti-terrorism legislation, racism and the criminalization of migration. In response to the increased, often well-intentioned, interest in working with displaced peoples (refugees or others who are forced to migrate) the Canadian Council for Refugees (, York’s Centre for Refugee Studies ( and the Canadian Association for Refugee and Forced Migration Studies ( collaborated to generate principles with specific ethical considerations for research with people in situations of forced migration. We hope such a praxis-based document written by, and for, those engaged in the field -as well as those who are primarily involved in research – can complement existing formal ethical guidelines set up by academic and organizational institutions such as ethics review boards.

A Year after “The Cologne Attacks”: How Small Community Initiatives in Europe Are Countering Right-wing Populism

By Feyzi Baban and Kim Rygiel

The one-year anniversary of the “Cologne attacks” on some 1,200 women on New Year’s Eve is a difficult one for many Germans. Prior to the attacks, since the summer of 2015, Germany demonstrated remarkable leadership – unlike many other European countries – by providing refuge to a million people fleeing war in places like Syria, where nearly half the population fled their homes. Last year’s attacks, most of which took place in the Cologne train station and included sexual assault, rape and robbery, were a tipping and turning point for many Germans.

A Descendent of Refugees: Standing in Solidarity with This Generation of Refugees

By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights My name means beautiful refugee. My grandparents on my father’s side were from Germany. On my mother’s side my people thought they were Austrian, but, when I found the town in 2002, it was in Poland about 45 minutes away from the Ukrainian border. So now they would be Polish. Borders in that region are fuzzy things. But really they were just Jews. That was all that really mattered. That is why my great grandfather was locked up in an attic with feral cats by his fellow military “brothers.” And when, after he finished his forced conscription and heard that Archduke Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo, he turned to his wife and young daughter and said, “I have to leave now. There is going to be war and they are going to kill me.” “Who? The Enemy?” asked his wife, my great grandmother.…

Finding Hope Amidst Despair: Journalism and the Current Refugee Crisis in Europe

By Shayna Plaut, Contributing Editor, Human Rights

We’ve seen the body of the toddler Alan Kurdi, who, along with mother and brother, drowned on the shores of Europe seeking safety.

We have heard the impassioned pleas of people from Syria and Afghanistan and Eritrea holding train tickets that are no longer valid.

We have listened in confusion as the Prime Ministers of Hungary, Germany and other Central European countries debate the politics of the European Union as people sleep on the street with neither blankets nor water.

Do You Understand? The Mishearing of LGBT Refugees’ Stories

By Katherine Fobear

I want to talk about stories. From the simplest story of a trip down to the grocery store to the local news story on the radio as we drive into work, stories permeate and create our everyday lives.

Stories matter.

They matter to us on a personal level, a social level, and on a political level. They help us to tell others who we are and who we wish we were.

Stories matter especially for refugees. Refugees make sense of their past and present and craft their identities both in their new places of residence and their home countries through the sharing of stories. For those forced to migrate from their home and resettle elsewhere, a refugee’s story serves as a fundamental link between the past, present, and future. The nurturing and forging of these links help refugees and their communities heal personally and socially. Aid workers, activists, and academics working in conflict areas call this process social repair.

When refugees share their stories with each other they build a sense of belonging and community by creating a bond among individuals through communal experiences, beliefs, and stories. Sharing a story can be therapeutic for the individual as well as the group as people share and witness the hardships of transplantation and emigration to a foreign land or culture.