Informed Consent Interviews Refugees

Interviewing Refugees: Tips for Informed Consent and Informed Consent Template

Are you conducting interviews with forcibly displaced persons and still need to draft your informed consent form? In this post, I am providing some tips for developing a meaningful IC form. I am also sharing my own informed consent template that I employed for interviews with refugees in Jordan and Germany. You are fee to share and adapt the template for your own research purposes. I am also happy to receive feedback or suggestions for the improvement of my informed consent template via email

Interviewing Refugees: Tips for Informed Consent and Informed Consent Template 

Blogpost published on on May 26, 2020

Research ethics including informed consent are – or at least should be – an integral part of everybody’s research design. This is especially true when engaging with vulnerable persons, which may or may not – depending on their individual situation – include persons who were forcibly displaced. As Hugman, Bartolomei and Pittaway strikingly put it, informed consent can easily become a mere charade in situations where “participation in research might at least guarantee one good meal on that day” (2011, p. 657). Potential respondents might also feel obliged to participate because they equate researchers with government officials. This could happen for instance when academic and bureaucratic interviews take place in the same location. And/or when the questions that are asked by researchers and government officials are very similar. The hope that researchers could help their case or provide assistance might also propel refugees to participate in interviews even though they would have said ‘no’ in less trying circumstances. 

Interviews with refugees thus often represent situations with stark hierarchical differences between researchers and respondents. In such instances, informed consent goes far beyond a carefully drafted informed consent form. Still, the importance of the IC form should not be underestimated, given that it’s the one document that respondents will actively engage with, sign and keep after the interview. Besides, it is also generally respondents’ only means to hold researchers accountable for the treatment of their personal data and experiences. 

Informed Consent Template

Although compiled for the respondents’ benefits, IC forms are often written in language that is very difficult to understand. This renders the fact that IC forms should inform your respondents about their rights rather difficult. Making your respondents sign a form which they don’t understand is basically the opposite of ‘informed consent’! Still, writing an IC form that can be understood across cultures and languages is often easier said than done.

As a starting point for drafting your own IC form, you can download my IC template below. I employed this template for interviews with urban refugees in Jordan as well as for interviews with resettled refugees in Germany. The form is written in English and was later translated into Arabic. You are free to share and adapt the template for your purposes as long as you don’t use it for commercial purposes. 

There are also online resources that you can consult for drafting your informed consent form.

Online Sources for Drafting Your Informed Consent Form 

When compiling my own form, I firstly looked up various templates that are provided by my department. Since those are however mostly employed for expert interviews, they did not prove very useful for my purposes. (Besides, I’m also not sure if ‘experts’ – whoever they might be – really understand all those clauses.) Instead, I heavily relied on the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) Research Toolkit that includes a guide on informed consent as well as a consent template. The IRC consent template also provides an IC form for interviews with children and you can download a checklist that you can go through when drafting your IC form. I also discussed my IC form with my translators who can better judge if the form can be easily understood by my respondents. 

Ethics Committee

Depending on your university’s regulations, you might also need to submit your interview guide and informed consent form to your Ethics Committee. Even if your university does not require you to do so, I would recommend it, since the Ethics Committee might point out problematic issues that didn’t cross your mind before. You might also need to provide the number of your ethics approval for some journal submissions – so better be safe than sorry.

Good luck for your research!