Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Alison Mountz

Advisor Role



The European Union (EU) implemented a maritime interdiction network using search and rescue which interdicted at least 462,813 “illegal migrants” in the Central Mediterranean Sea between 2006 and 2015. This involved 15 discrete, militarised and semi-secret maritime interdiction operations (MIOs) at a minimum cost of 126.9 million 2014 Euros. In this dissertation, I will explore and map these operations and their geographies between 2006 and 2015.

First, and based on the given existence of the European Patrols Network, I examine how this network came into being in the first place. This serves to show that the EU purposely created regular maritime interdiction operations using search and rescue to interdict migrants by 2006. This approach also justifies and underpins my subsequent analyses of their histories, functions and outcomes, all of which depend on the network having two specific properties. First: that the EPN was a system intentionally designed to internalise migrants and boats as external objects of security via legal inclusion in order to exclude them. Second: that the main mechanism for this process of what I call internalisation was search and rescue.

Second, and based on the establishment of these two properties of the EPN, I examine and explore these operations in order to describe them for the first time. I demonstrate the existence of these operations, their inner workings and their basic empirical outcomes. I then proceed to statistically show that search and rescue was empirically vital to their interdiction practises over time. I subsequently display that search and rescue was also critical to spatial externalisation, or the outward movement of border enforcement to manage international migration. These analyses demonstrate that search and rescue was indeed the primary spatial and legal tool of interdiction in the Central Mediterranean Sea between 2006 and 2015.

Last, and based on the empirical demonstration of the relevance of search and rescue, I put these maritime interdiction operations to unprecedented statistical testing to determine whether they were effective at stopping current or future migration. This enables analysis of whether social theories assuming or arguing for the (lack of) effectiveness of such operations have empirical support, something yet to be performed in past research.

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