The Australian government’s proposed swap of asylum seekers with Malaysia has been blocked by the country’s high court.

The proposed deal would have seen 4,000 ‘processed’ asylum seekers go from Malaysia to Australia in exchange for 800 refugees currently being held on Australia’s Christmas Island.

Lawyers intervened on behalf of two Afghani asylum seekers who feared a return to their country. They claimed that Australia would not be able to guarantee the human rights of those being sent away.

While the government had previously argued that their human rights would be protected, the court ruled that Malaysia was not an appropriate country to send asylum seekers.

The ruling does not necessarily put an end to the scheme, although it has cast severe doubts over its future feasibility.

It was hoped that the swap would send a clear message to people smugglers, with 2,000 people on 26 boats having arrived illegally on Australian shores already this year.

Currently, there are over 6,000 asylum seekers in Australian detention centres.