This article sets out to summarise the policies, practices and experiences of immigration detention in contemporary Greece, as well as outlining how they have been critiqued domestically and internationally. The article proceeds to address the ways in which the Greek state has reacted to criticisms and pressures for reform, especially from abroad. It is argued that neither domestic nor international interventions have succeeded in bringing about substantive progressive change in the Greek immigration detention system. Rather, Greek state authorities have systematically neutralised criticisms by employing an array of rhetorical techniques, most notably through evocation of philoxenia (broadly meaning hospitality to foreigners and strangers more generally) as a natural trait common to all Greeks. In addition to highlighting the dubious and paradoxical dimensions of the rhetorical defences deployed by the state in Greece, particularly concerning its discourse of philoxenia, the article goes on to discuss the main socio-political functions that have subtly been served inside the country’s borders through maintenance of deplorable policies and practices of immigration detention, including the symbolic management of public anxieties in accordance with what may be termed the ‘more eligibility’ principle. In pointing to these functions, the article helps to explain why the Greek state persists in making use of rhetoric that is blatantly indefensible and bound to attract further disapprobation.