Warwick research inspires new work by international artist and campaigner

A research project led by Professor Vicki Squire of the University of Warwick’s Department of Politics and International Studies has inspired a new artwork by international artist and activist Salma Zulfiqar.

In Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat, Professor Squire and her team collected the stories of people from the Middle East and Africa making the dangerous journey to safety in Europe through in-depth interviews. The research team wanted to challenge the assumptions that are often made about people migrating, and give those arriving to Europe the opportunity to tell their own stories in order to highlight the effects of EU migration policies on the journeys, experiences, understandings, expectations, concerns and demands of people on the move.

Salma Zulfiqar has chosen ten of those stories to highlight in Routes to Peace? The artwork represents each woman as a “peace dove” carrying her story with her, while visitors to the exhibition can also listen to audio recordings of the women telling their stories.

Professor Squire said:

“It is really important that we continue to listen to the voices of people making dangerous journeys to Europe. The violence and inhumane conditions that many still face simply cannot be ignored, and I am delighted that Salma has taken up our research findings in her moving artwork, Routes to Peace?”

Salma Zulfiqar commented:

”The stories in the report are extremely powerful and I wanted to bring them to life through art and audio. Through my creative work I want to show people around the world the problems faced by refugees and help create common ground between them and host communities as well as promoting tolerance in communities. Each refugee is represented in the artwork as a ‘peace bird’ which is symbolic of their journey.”

Routes to Peace? is on display at the Library of Birmingham until 19 July as part of an exhibition celebrating Refugee Week 2019.


There are 10 audio clips of the women’s stories available which can be used online or on radio. Each clip is one minute long.

About Salma Zulfiqar

Salma Zulfiqar is an International Artist and Activist working on migration. Her current creative projects, such as ARTconnects & The Migration Blanket, focus on empowering refugee and migrant women by promoting integration, working towards preventing hate crimes and extremism. Her artwork has been exhibited in London, Birmingham, Paris, Greece & Dubai and she has been celebrated as one of Birmingham’s most inspirational women in the book One Upon A Time in Birmingham – Women Who Dared to Dream.

About Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat

Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat was an international project comprised of researchers at the University of Warwick, University of Malta, and the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP, Athens). The research team carried out 257 in-depth qualitative interviews with a total of 271 participants across seven sites in two phases: Kos, Malta and Sicily from September-November 2015, and Athens, Berlin, Istanbul and Rome from May-July 2016. Additional interviews were carried out in Malta until March 2016. The project focused directly on the impact of policies upon people on the move, drawing together policy analysis and observational fieldwork with an in-depth analysis of qualitative interview data with people making – or contemplating making – the dangerous journey across the Mediterranean Sea. As such, the project provided previously-unconsidered insights into the effects of policy on the journeys, experiences, understandings, expectations, concerns and demands of people on the move.

Crossing the Mediterranean Sea by Boat was funded by the UK Economic and Social Research Council as part of the Mediterranean Migration Research Programme, and ran from September 2015 – February 2019.

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