Researching urban forced migrants in Turkey and Lebanon: Alternative ways to study a vulnerable population in fragile political contexts
Lea Müller-Funk , Osama Alaa Aldien, Arij Basrak, Weam Ghabash, Mustafa Hatip, Rand Shamaa, Mouran Tourkmani
Studying mobility aspirations of forced migrants is a challenge. Refugees are a particularly vulnerable group and displaced persons are often described as a rare or hidden group whose members are hard to identify and to locate. Representative micro-level data is scarce, with surveys frequently based on non-probability sampling techniques. Furthermore, most refugees flee to neighbouring countries which are often politically unstable and sometimes at war with the origin country, posing additional security risks to participants and researchers alike. Building on existing literature and recent fieldwork conducted in Lebanon and Turkey in 2018, we suggest a methodological approach to study mobility aspirations of Syrian urban self-settled refugees in four cities in these two countries. In doing so, we highlight the importance of considering ethical challenges, adopting a mixed methods research design which incorporates randomness in data collection (multi-stage sampling, random walks combined with limited focused enumeration of the nearest neighbour technique), the advantages of including members of the targeted population in research teams, as well as challenges encountered during the research with regards to representativeness, confidentiality, security issues and positionality.