The European ‘refugee crisis’ has seen the Mediterranean described as: a hot spot in need of better governance and border policing; the world’s deadliest border; and as a humanitarian catastrophe. In Germany, the initial default option was to treat the various articulations of crisis as localized. Keeping the Mediterranean (and thus the crisis) at arm’s length was facilitated by the Dublin II regulations stipulating that asylum claims would only be processed in the state where they were first made. Only in 2015, when large numbers of refugees arrived, the Mediterranean was rearticulated as concerning ‘us’ rather than ‘them’. Focusing on German asylum and refugee debates, this article traces such semantic shifts to show how, counter-intuitively, becoming Mediterranean is enabled by a tacit process of de-Europeanization which instrumentally calls for European solutions only when the ‘crisis’ reaches the national level.