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  • A protester holds a placard during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, Australia, Oct. 19, 2015.

    A protester holds a placard during a rally in support of refugees in central Sydney, Australia, Oct. 19, 2015. | Photo: Reuters

Published 3 February 2016

Protests will hit all of Australia's main cities this week, after the country's High Court ruled the government can detain refugees offshore.

Refugee advocates in Australia announced Wednesday fresh protests after the country's High Court backed offshore detention.

The Refugee Action Coalition said new demonstrations were set to hit all of Australia's major cities on Thursday and Friday in support of refugee rights. The new protests were sparked by fears hundreds of refugees, including babies, could soon be forced back to indefinite detention in the government's island processing camps.

“The fate of the 260 people presently in Australia is with the Minister for Immigration,” said Ian Rintoul, spokesperson for the Refugee Action Coalition.

The renewed concerns were prompted after the High Court ruled the government can detain refugees in offshore facilities in Papua New Guinea and Nauru. The facilities are part of the government's hardline anti-refugee policy,which seeks to keep asylum seekers from reaching the country's shores. The policy has been widely condemned by human rights groups.

The ruling ended a nine month legal battle between the Australian government and a Bangladeshi refugee. Despite being granted refugee status by Nauru, the Bangladeshi national has been given a visa restricting her to the island nation's detention camp. The refugee's lawyers argued the offshore processing regime exceeded the government's constitutional limitations.

The court rejected this challenge, concluding a newly written section of the country's Migration Act allowed the government to conduct offshore processing. The section, 198AHA, was rushed through parliament in June 2015, after fears surfaced the government's legal rationale for offshore processing wasn't water tight.

The group supporting the Bangladeshi refugee, the Human Rights Law Centre, said they were “disappointed” by the ruling.

“But the court’s decision isn’t a blanket authority for the Australian Government as the court has recognized important limits on the government’s powers around the purpose of detention and its length,” said Daniel Webb,” the Human Rights Law Centre’s director of legal advocacy.

Webb argued that despite the ruling, the government shouldn't proceed with deporting more refugees to offshore camps.

“The legality is one thing, the morality is another. Ripping kids out of primary schools and sending them to be indefinitely warehoused on a tiny remote island is wrong,” he said.

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