Research Project „Naval and Coast Guard Migration Operations in the Mediterranean Sea“

This project will focus on migration related naval and coast guard operations in the Mediterranean since 2011, when Poseidon Sea first commenced in the eastern Mediterranean. The emphasis will be on EU operations such as Sophia, but NATO will also receive attention since it has had a parallel impact on the issue. The central study question revolves around the conflicting purposes of these operations: are they humanitarian in nature or traditional national and homeland security missions by a great power? Is Europe attempting to create a „steel gray wall“ across its southern seas with its naval forces or are these operations truly focused on saving lives and preventing human trafficking?

Additional questions address the impact of naval migration missions on European defense policy. How are these operations helping to transform the EU from a „soft power“ to an integrated and operable ‘hard power’ security actor? How are these operations facilitating the EU’s goal of integrating and consolidating European military power? Has the migration crisis encouraged the development of EU military capabilities and capacities or weakened military readiness? Given the high level of support for these missions by member states, is the naval mission one of the few initiatives actually pulling the EU closer together and unifying Europe? How have these missions changed the EU’s relationship to NATO? Why is NATO even involved in what is essentially a humanitarian and border control mission? How do EU and NATO policymakers as well as members of its armed forces view this effort and its results?

The interviews serve in the production of a book on humanitarian naval operations and may be used as a resource for scholars.

Principal Points of Contact:
Dr. John Sherwood, Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC) Washington, D.C. & 2019 Fulbright Professor at Institute for Security Policy Kiel University,; Kira Frankenthal, Institute for Security Policy Kiel University (ISPK), (coordination of interviews)

Topics covered in the Interview

Note 1:
All interviewees reserve the right to modify questions or not answer certain questions, or ask for the interview to be destroyed following the interview (or refuse to release it). He or she will be allowed to review any abstracts or transcripts produced and delete any material he or she does not wish to disclose. All interviews will be UNCLASSIFIED.
Note 2:
We will try and keep the interview between 45 and 90 minutes in length.

  1. Name and rank of the interviewee.
  2. General Background: Where did you grow up and attend school? Why did you decide to become a naval officer? Any naval or military tradition in your family? Did you attend the Naval Academy? Graduation date and class rank?
  3. Please provide a brief resume of your assignments leading up to your deployment to the Mediterranean for migration related operations. If you wish, you can submit a written biography (or LinkedIn profile) and we can use that to ask a few questions on this topic.
  4. What ship were you assigned to during migration related missions? What were its normal missions? For NATO; the EU; your national government, etc.?
  5. Can you provide an UNCLASSIFIED overview of your ship and its capabilities?
  6. What migration related operations did you participate in and during what dates? What other ships/units were participating in those missions during those dates?
  7. What was your job during those deployments? CO/XO/Division Head, etc.? What was your rank?
  8. Did your ship or unit monitor migration movement? If so, please discuss. How? By radar, radio, aircraft (UAV), visually, by RHIB (rigid hull inflatable boat)?
  9. Did you coordinate efforts with other naval/military/Coast Guard/police/NGO units? How did you „deconflict“ with those other units? Explain your ship’s mission compared to the missions of the other units involved?
  10. Did your ship rescue any migrants? If so, how and where were they transported to? What type of assistance was provided? What types of challenges did your Sailors confront during these missions? Did it place a strain on your Sailors?
  11. Were boarding parties armed? Did they carry additional personnel such as medical personnel, police, special operations types, masters at arms, etc.? What was their role and what was the role of your Sailors?
  12. Can you discuss your chain of command during these missions and any operational orders that your unit was operating under? If you can discuss rules of engagement (ROEs) in unclassified manner, pleas elaborate.
  13. Discuss any capabilities that your ship possessed that contributed to the success of these migration missions? Are naval vessels appropriate for such missions?
  14. How did you and your crew view the mission? Are you proud of what you did? Would you like to see more in such missions in the future? Did the mission help better fuse the German Navy together with its EU and NATO counterparts?
  15. How do you personally view migration operations, both from a humanitarian and a national security perspective? How „successful“ were these migration operations? In terms of lives saved? Flux of migrants? What makes the operation successful? What makes the operation unsuccessful?
  16. Do you view the operation as a humanitarian one or one purely with a military objective? What is the threat to Europe posed by migrants? Is it mainly economic or is there indeed a terrorist threat (i.e. „weaponized migration“)
  17. How long do you see Sophia and migration operations in the Eastern Mediterranean continuing? Will navies continue to play a role or will it fall mainly to Coast Guards and Gendarmeries/Police?
  18. What was your relationship with other actors? Police, Coast Guards, NGOs, non-participating naval forces, etc.
  19. Can you discuss the politics of the operations, both for the EU and your own nation?
  20. Other thoughts? Ideas? Who else should we talk to?

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