The biopolitical warfare on migrants: EU Naval Force and NATO operations of migration government in the Mediterranean

Garelli, Glenda and Tazzioli, Martina. 2018. The biopolitical warfare on migrants: EU Naval Force and NATO operations of migration government in the Mediterranean. Critical Military Studies, 4(2), pp. 181-200. ISSN 2333-7486 [Article]

CMS-def (1).pdf - Accepted Version
Available under License Creative Commons Attribution Non-commercial.

Download (294kB) | Preview

Abstract or Description

This paper deals with the recent transformations of the military-humanitarian technology for managing migration in the Mediterranean Sea, focusing on two naval operations, i.e. the European Union Operation Sophia deployed in the central Mediterranean and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) operation in the Aegean Sea, both deployed between 2015 and 2016 and still underway. Building on archival research on both missions and interviews with officials of Operation Sophia, we propose the notion of ‘biopolitical warfare’ to discuss these military-humanitarian interventions in the field of migration. These operations, we argue, stage a move to the offensive in the military-humanitarian government of migration by enlisting warfare against the logistics of migrant journeys. We then situate this argument within both the activist and the International Relations (IR) discourses on migration in the Mediterranean context: we differentiate the framework of ‘warfare’ from the ‘war on migrants’ argument deployed since the 1990s as part of activist discourse; we discuss the migration and warfare nexus in relation to the deployment of ‘migrants as a human bomb’ which has characterized the international relations discourse in Mediterranean countries since the early 2000s, including the recent Turkish–Greek context that led to the NATO intervention. Subsequently, the paper focuses on the targets and operations of the EU and NATO interventions and mobilizes the concept of ‘hybrid war’ to discuss how military and humanitarian techniques and rationales work when deployed as instruments of migration containment.

Item Type:


Identification Number (DOI):

Departments, Centres and Research Units:



27 September 2017Published Online

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

23 Sep 2019 11:51

Last Modified:

11 Jun 2021 22:21

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


View statistics for this item...

Edit Record Edit Record (login required)