The Australian High Court Wednesday rejected a legal challenge to the country's offshore immigration detention policy, potentially giving the government the go-ahead to send scores of asylum-seeker families back to a detention centre on Nauru.

The court in Canberra handed down the ruling in the case of a pregnant Bangladeshi asylum seeker who had come from Nauru to Australia to get treatment for pregnancy complications.

Her baby was born in Australia. Now she and her 1-year-old child and many others face being returned to the Pacific island on 72-hours' notice.

The court in a majority decision said that the woman's detention on Nauru was not unlawful, was authorized under Australian migration laws, and that the offshore processing deal with Nauru was valid under the constitution.

Australia intercepts all migrants travelling by sea, and either turns them back or processes their asylum claims offshore. Government officials have defended the policy, saying it has saved lives at sea.

Daniel Webb, a lawyer with the Human Rights Law Center, which brought the case to court, said it is "fundamentally wrong to condemn these people to a life in limbo on a tiny island."

"Legality is one thing. The morality is another," he told reporters outside the court after the verdict was announced.

"This mother just wants what all mothers want her child to have - a decent life somewhere safe."

The woman from Bangladesh was on a boat that was intercepted by Australian authorities in October 2013 and sent to Nauru where she stayed until August 2014.

Webb said the woman broke down to tears after hearing the news.

At least 267 asylum seekers, including 91 children, are in Australia for medical and other reasons, according to authorities. Among them are 33 are babies born in Australia to asylum seeker mothers.

There have been several riots at Australia's offshore detention centres on Nauru and Manus Island in the Pacific, and Christmas Island in the Indian Ocean. Protesters and human rights activists have complained of harsh conditions at the centres.

Australia's Immigration Department blamed riots on Christmas Island in September on detainees who were awaiting deportation.

Amnesty International said they were disappointed with the ruling.

The forced return of the asylum seekers "would violate Australia’s international obligations" as they would be "at real risk of serious human rights violations if returned to Nauru," the group said.

Amnesty also said they continually receive "extremely concerning reports of sexual harassment and sexual abuse of women and children asylum-seekers in Nauru."

"The evidence is clear and it's undeniable that Nauru is unsafe for women and children and sending them back would be torture," Sarah Hanson-Young, a senator from the Green party, said in a statement.

As of December 30, 2015, there were 1,459 asylum seekers in offshore detention facilities in Nauru and Papua New Guinea, according to the Australian immigration and border protection department.

Webb said the government could still intervene.

"The stroke of a pen is all it would take for our prime minister and immigration minister to do the decent thing," he said.

On Tuesday night, Immigration Minister Peter Dutton told broadcaster ABC that the government remained committed to its offshore processing policy, and that by reducing the incentive to try and reach Australia, it had saved many lives at sea.

He said allegations of assault and sexual assault in detention centres were taken extremely seriously.

Latest news

Syrian opposition rules out future role for President al-Assad

The Syrian opposition said Friday it would not accept any role for President Bashar al-Assad in the future of the war-torn country, reacting to a recent US shift saying that removing al-Assad is no longer a priority for Washington.

Russian Army integrates breakaway forces of Georgian province

Parts of the small fighting forces of the Georgian breakaway province of South Ossetia have been placed under Russian military control, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Friday.

Czech Republic's Pilsner Urquell beer is now Japanese

Japanese brewing company Asahi completed its takeover of the Czech brewery Pilsner Urquell on Friday, Asahi said in a statement.

Judge approves 25-million-dollar settlement of Trump University case

A US district judge on Friday approved a 25-million-dollar settlement of lawsuits and state fraud allegations against Trump University, the US president's now-defunct business venture.

Former Thai premier Thaksin to junta on reconciliation: 'Cut me out'

Former Thai prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra on Friday announced that he is not interested in the junta-led reconciliation process, three days after the junta handed him a half-a-billion-dollar tax bill for his past business deal.

Dalic: We welcome possible deal between Agrokor and banks

The government welcomes the possibility of an agreement being concluded between the Agrokor food company and creditor banks, and the bill on vitally important companies is not a fallback plan but the result of the government's care for the overall economic and financial stability of Croatia, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Economy Martina Dalic told a press conference in Zagreb on Friday.

Croatia, China sign action plan for cooperation in agriculture

The Croatian and Chinese ministries of agriculture on Friday signed an action plan for cooperation in the field of agriculture for the period 2017-2018, the Croatian ministry said in a statement.

ZSE indices up, Agrokor shares in focus of investor interest

The Zagreb Stock Exchange (ZSE) indices on Friday rose by more than 1.8%, with stocks of the Agrokor food and retail concern being in the focus of investor interest again.

Berlin police defend handling of Berlin market attacker

Berlin police defended themselves on Friday against accusations that they stopped surveillance on Berlin Christmas market attacker despite knowing in June 2016 he was dangerous.

Croatia, creditors tailor emergency measures to save tottering giant

Croatia's tottering retail and food giant Agrokor reached an agreement with its creditors, putting its debts standby and allowing it to continue working during emergency restructuring, the Croatian branch of Austria's Erste Bank said Friday.

Agrokor's creditors say standstill agreement to go into force today

A standstill agreement regarding the Agrokor concern's existing financial obligations to banks will take effect on Friday, additional capital will be injected into the concern in the coming days and the concern will be actively restructured, which includes a change of its management, it was said on Friday after a meeting between Agrokor's suppliers and creditor banks.

Palestinians, UN slam Israel's new settlement plan

Palestinians, Israeli activists and the UN lambasted the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Friday, a day after it gave the go-ahead for the first new West Bank settlement in a quarter of a century.

South Sudan rebels release three abducted foreign oil workers

South Sudanese rebels have released three foreign engineers they abducted in early March in the oil-rich Upper Nile region, Foreign Affairs Ministry official Mawein Makol Arik said on Friday.

Turkish opposition: Imprisoned party chief has gone on hunger strike

The head of Turkey's pro-Kurdish opposition party has launched a hunger strike from prison.

European leagues threaten Champions League schedule clashes

The European Professional Football Leagues (EPFL) on Friday threatened schedule clashes on Champions League matchdays in an ongoing dispute with the governing body UEFA.

Danish court revokes citizenship of IS volunteer

A Danish appellate court on Friday stripped a man of his Danish citizenship for volunteering to fight for the extremist Islamic State in Syria.

Banks and Agrokor agree on key elements of standstill agreement

Member banks of the coordinating committee of financial creditors and representatives of the Agrokor food company have in principle agreed on key elements of a standstill agreement, which is expected to be signed later today, announcing changes in the company's management team, Erste Bank said in a statement on Friday afternoon.

Syrian man on trial in Sweden; mosque attack labelled terrorism

A Syrian man went on trial Friday in the southern Swedish city of Malmo, charged with terrorism and arson after an attack last year on a building used as an assembly hall by Shiite Muslims.