The Mediterranean as a carceral seascape

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In May 2019, 75 distressed migrants fleeing Libya were rescued by the merchant vessel Maridive 601 in the central Mediterranean Sea. With Italy, Malta, and Tunisia denying permission to disembark, the merchant vessel turned from a floating refuge into an offshore carceral space, leaving the migrants stranded near the Tunisian coast for 19 days. This article traces the migratory trajectories of the Maridive 75, as I will collectively refer to them, in order to show how EUrope's desire to deter, capture, and contain migrant mobilities has transformed the Mediterranean Sea into a carceral seascape. While offshore carcerality is not specific to EUrope's southern maritime border and also not a novel phenomenon, increasingly restrictive migration policies have dramatically reshaped the Mediterranean borderzone over recent years, multiplying infrastructures, technologies, and spaces of confinement. Interrogating the Mediterranean Sea as a carceral space generates insights into an ever-growing panoply of carceral but mobile forms of governance seeking to discipline and police unauthorised and precarious human movements, both at sea and on land. At the same time, as this article demonstrates, unruly migrant mobilities and struggles at sea continue to expose the often-conflictual processes at work in the production of the Mediterranean carceral seascape.




Stierl, D. M. (2021). The Mediterranean as a carceral seascape. Political Geography, 88.

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