Senthorun Raj, the senior policy adviser with the Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby, said the court ruling, which was a 6-1 majority, was of “considerable importance”.
“Malaysia not only lacks legislation recognising refugees, it also criminalises homosexuality and does not provide access to changing identity documentation for intersex and gender diverse people,” he said.
The Government had planned to send 800 asylum seekers who arrived onto Australian shores by boat in return for 4000 people over the next four years currently in Malaysia who have already had their refugee claims verified.
Raj said the Government’s now ‘unlawful’ policy would have gone against the principle of non-refoulement which it has signed under the UN Refugee convention.
“The High Court decision will hopefully facilitate more just and humane policy decisions when it comes to refugees and asylum seekers in Australia,” he said.
The Australian Human Rights Commission welcomed the High Court decision, particularly regarding its clarification on unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Australia.
Following the ruling, some members of the Coalition have made tentative suggestions the detention centre on the pacific island of Nauru should be revived.
While Greens immigration spokeswoman Sarah Hanson-Young said the High Court’s rejection of the Malaysia swap deal means any form of offshore detention is unlawful.