‘Safe spaces’ have been at the core of participatory design (PD) in HCI. However, their characteristics, their potential impact and what enables them are not yet fully understood. The present article presents a series of insights derived from a six-week long study with 19 young forced migrants (YFMs). We investigated factors which contributed to enable the creation of ‘safe spaces’ while developing digital services with them. We based our case study on four main components of such spaces: (i) ethics, (ii) reflective processes, (iii) content, (iv) and spatial layout and dynamics. Our findings pointed to a promotion of ‘safe spaces’ through the combination of these components. Participants showed a high degree of engagement, seemed to be comfortable while interacting socially, and manifested signs of developing a trust relationship with the facilitators. The work presented in this article can benefit designers engaging in participatory activities in HCI with communities with highly complex and sensitive backgrounds or who are underrepresented.