My advice is, which is what I will say to everyone, don’t start by looking at what objects there are out there. Start by really understanding what happens during such disastrous events, then find the best thing to solve their problems. Perhaps you will find that it’s not a shelter that they really need. Maybe it’s something else.
Also, it’s not just refugees. As you mentioned, you want it to be shipped flat, so logistics is important. Cultural communication is important too. Usually, the aid comes from the outside, so it’s important to help those outside aid understand local cultural needs in order to carry out their duties most effectively. In another words, you have to think of your scenario as a collective one, not how one product will work for one individual.
The quickest, most effective and convenient thing you can do now is to use various events as case studies. The New Orleans hurricane and flood, Sumatra earthquake and tsunami, tornadoes in the mid west, civil wars, disease outbreaks in Africa and parts of Asia. Every of those events is unique, and mostly commonly, refugees don’t just need a shelter for weeks. They need it for years. From my observation, the more developed the society is, the longer they will need the shelters, because the complicated administration infrastructure does not allow them to simply build a new home as they wish. They will often need to wait for funds to be approved and so on, which can take years.
Another thing I would focus on is, how do you help people to get to that centralized location where you will be sending your products to?
You should also look at this organization “Architecture for Humanity” and analyze how they operate. First, every project they work on is unique, so in order to create a sustainable structure, they have to design and build it locally, so they don’t have a pre-fab solution at all. It’s also important to study how they carry out their projects. Very often they let the local opinions lead them in their designs, therefore it’s little about the designer and all about the community. So it’s not about what you want, which is also why I mentioned that it may not be a shelter that these people really need.
There are way too many people out there who think they know what the world needs, then end up creating nothing more than a gadget that only works on someone’s design blog. You have picked a very specific target group, so it shouldn’t be hard for you to focus on the right research direction. A lot of people have volunteered in various disaster relief events. I am sure it’s not hard to find them. So hunt them down and interview them. You may even be able to contact the refugees too. Even when you live in North America, you may not be as distant from refugees as you would expect.