Immigration detention centres have an ambiguous legal status. Functioning outside the criminal justice institutional circuit, they can be hardly framed by ordinary legal categories. Their legal ambiguity is perfectly reflected in the existing literature, which proposes different interpretations of the legal status of immigration administrative detention. This article explores the issue trying to isolate four theoretical points of reference out of the complex debate that political, social and legal sciences have conducted on the expanding role of administrative detention within the framework of contemporary immigration control policies. Each theoretical perspective defines the legal status of immigration detention starting from a particular image of the stranger, seen as an enemy, as a risk bearer, as a person in need of humanitarian aid and, finally, as a non-person. The analysis will then converge into a final reflection on the relationship between migration, freedom, and security in contemporary democracies which will discuss borders as the contemporary blind-spot of human rights.
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