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Power, capital, and immigration detention rights: making networked markets in global detention governance at UNHCR

Global Networks

Published online on


With the expanded use of immigration detention and migration management practices worldwide, detention has emerged as a key issue for United Nations and international human rights institutions. A growing international rights movement seeks to make the practice fairer and more humane, leading to the dominance of a mainstream detention rights agenda and counter‐hegemonic system of governance. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Geneva and elsewhere, this article examines the capital, knowledge, and technological expertise that went into the construction of UNHCR's Global Detention Strategy. I highlight the rational calculation undergirding this global detention rights agenda, including the transnational policy networks of NGOs, INGOs, and academics that facilitate the movement's moral authority and capitalist growth. Their practices have become powerful neoliberal development tools, which give veracity to human rights agendas and attract oppositionally‐figured abolitionist praxis.