Prime Minister Tony Abbott has lashed out at the opposition, the Greens and refugee activists, criticising them for "disrupting" the government's asylum seeker policies in the wake a High Court injunction on the transfer of Tamil asylum seekers.
A High Court interim injunction barring the return of 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lankan authorities has been
granted in a late sitting in Sydney.
"The Labor party and its activists, the Greens and their activists, they will try to disrupt the government's policy," he told Channel Seven.
"They will try and do things that start the boats up again because that's in Labor's DNA.
Mr Abbott said the government would continue implementing its asylum seeker policies, defending them as "decent, humane and compassionate".
"What I'm focussed on is stopping the boats, that is what we're absolutely and constantly focussed on. Because as the boats keeping we will keep having deaths at sea so the most decent, humane and compassionate thing you can do is to stop the boats.
"I'm not going to comment on what may or may not be happening on the water, but I do want to assure everyone that what we do on the water is consistent with our legal obligations and consistent with safety at sea."
Lawyer George Newhouse brought the High Court injunction. He says the asylum seekers were "entitled to have their claims for protection processed in accordance with Australian law."
Their case will be heard at the High Court in Melbourne on Tuesday afternoon.
"The asylum seekers claim that they are fleeing persecution and that they're at risk of death, torture or significant harm by Sri Lankan authorities," Mr Newhouse told AAP on Monday night.
"The minister cannot simply intercept their vessel in the middle of the night and disappear them."
If the High Court finds in the refugees favour, the Abbott government's turn back the boats could be under threat.
Professor Donald Rothwell from the Australian National University speaks with Zara Zaher
'A fair go for everyone': Tamil Congress welcomes High Court injunction
The Australian Tamil Congress has welcomed the High Court injunction preventing the return of 153 asylum seekers to Sri Lanka.
Bala Vigneswaran, a spokesman for the national organisation representing Australian Tamils, said the court's action was "representative of the true Aussie spirit - of ensuring, not denying, a fair go to everyone".
"These individuals, apparently intercepted in mid-sea as they fled persecution to seek asylum, have a right to a just hearing of their case as per international laws and the UN Refugee Convention," he said.
"Australia is signatory to this convention, and returning these men, women and children to the very people they are escaping from, without a fair process, is not only in breach of Australia's international obligations but also morally abhorrent."
'Playing hide and seek with the lives of children'
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young welcomed the High Court injunction, saying it would hold the government to account on its international obligations.
"It is only right that the High Court demand answers from the government about exactly what is going on with those they are intercepting and holding in custody."
She said she holds concerns for the reported 37 children among the asylum seekers, criticising the government's silence on their fate as "playing hide and seek with the lives of children".
A group of 53 legal academics from 17 Australian universities have signed a letter highlighting their concerns on the fate of the Sri Lankan asylum seekers.
In the letter, the group says the reported four-question screening process conducted at sea "raises a real risk of refoulement, in breach of Australia's obligations under international refugee and human rights law".
"We urgently call on the Australian government to make public its legal justification for this operation."