Today’s management of migration is strongly dependent on the role of reception centres. Despite their crucial role, scholars of the securitisation of migration have overlooked at how they affect the process. In the light shed by this special issue, the present contribution analyses non-state actors’ cognitions and narratives in the management of reception centres, so as to explain their performative roles in securitising or de-securitising human mobility as a threat. Its findings prove that, when reception centres’ managers hold prejudicial cognitions, they develop negative practices that produce hostile and stereotyped narratives. A multi-method comparative case study, including covert ethnography, field observation and in-depth interviews, shows that, differently from speech-acts, narratives do not need to be accepted by the audience to exercise their effects. The audience is impressed from the narratives, which in a performative act, make people feel and perceive what the narration stages [Alexander, J. 2004. ‘Cultural Pragmatics: Social Performance between Ritual and Strategy.’ Sociological Theory 22 (4): 527–573; Lyotard, J. F. 1979. La condition postmoderne: rapport sur le savior. English Translation “The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge”. Manchester University Press]. Akin accountings contribute to spiralling the process, by self-fulfilling and reinforcing the securitisation of migration.