The Abbott government has re-introduced a controversial freeze on granting protection visas to refugees who arrive by boat on the eve of a High Court challenge on behalf of a 15-year-old Ethiopian boy who is being denied a visa.
The freeze was introduced, but quickly revoked, late last year under threat of legal challenge, but re-introduced without explanation on Tuesday, prompting outrage from refugee advocates.
The lawyer leading the challenge, David Manne, described the decision as ''extraordinary'', saying it lacked any rational basis in policy or law.
But a government spokesman defended the move, saying the freeze on visas for boat arrivals would enable the government to deliver on its promise of at least 11,000 visas for those taken from refugee camps around the world.
The High Court will on Friday hear the challenge to a separate regulation denying those who arrive without visas any prospect of permanent protection. It was introduced after the Senate blocked the government's attempt to re-introduce temporary protection visas for boat arrivals.
It is being fought on behalf of a boy who entered Australia as a stowaway on a ship that docked in Gladstone in March last year. Mr Manne says the boy had met the criteria for refugee status and should have been granted a protection visa to begin rebuilding his life.
The challenge will follow a call by the United Nations high commissioner for human rights for Australia to review its treatment of asylum seekers and its agreement with Papua New Guinea after last month's violence on Manus Island.
In an opening address to be delivered at the Human Rights Council 25th Session in Geneva on Thursday, Navi Pillay will say that the violence on Manus Island underscores the need to review the resettlement arrangements signed by Australia with Papua New Guinea and Nauru.
The Senate on Wednesday agreed to establish its own inquiry into the violence and will enable detainees, staff and contractors to give evidence under parliamentary privilege.
Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young has accused Immigration Minister Scott Morrison of trying to circumvent proper legal process for a second time with the new freeze on granting visas. "The Minister is trying to be tricky with the law and now we have this ridiculous, chaotic mess," she said.
When revoking the freeze in December, Mr Morrison denied it was a backtrack, saying the regulation was no longer necessary.
Pamela Curr, from the Asylum Seeker Resource Centre, said the re-introduction of the freeze was in breach of ''all the promises to the international conventions that we have made in the last 50 years''.
The Uniting Church has slammed the ''cold blooded'' treatment of asylum seeker children in detention, offering housing for children who are being moved from Christmas Island to Australia's processing centre on Nauru Island.
There are about 70 children being moved to Nauru Island, said the president of the Uniting Church, Reverend Professor Andrew Dutney.
The story Visa freeze reinstated for refugees who arrive by boat first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.