Canberra: Australia`s highest court on Monday extended an injunction stopping the deportation of asylum seekers to Malaysia, leaving Prime Minister Julia Gillard`s new border security policy in limbo until late August or September when a final ruling is expected.
Gillard has signed a refugee-swap deal with Malaysia in order to overturn public perceptions her government is soft on the hot-button issue of asylum seekers.
Lawyers representing a group of boatpeople, who were to be the first to deported under the deal, argued in the High Court of Australia that the government did not have the legal power to send the asylum seekers to Malaysia.
"There is a sufficiently serious question to be tried," said High Court Justice Kenneth Hayne in referring the case to a full-bench of the court, which will sit on August 22.
The injunction would be extended until a final ruling was made, he said.
Under the Malaysia deal, Australia will send 800 asylum seekers who arrive by boat to Malaysia to have their refugee claims processed. In return, Australia will accept 4,800 people from Malaysia who have been granted refugee status.
The government had wanted to send the first 16 men to Malaysia on Monday. They were from a refugee boat which arrived late last week with 54 people on board, including 19 children, with 14 of those children unaccompanied by an adult.