The federal government must move a 68-year-old man with multiple health issues from a Melbourne immigration detention centre because he's at risk of being infected with COVID-19, a court has ordered.
Compliance with the interim order made on Monday by Federal Court Justice Bernard Murphy is being watched by human rights law advocates who've been arguing the commonwealth has a duty of care in such cases.
The court heard evidence group detention settings are unsafe for people at high risk of developing COVID-19.
The man had been living in the community for almost 10 years with his family and was detained in late 2019 after an adverse security assessment was made against him, relating to a business he operated overseas almost 15 years ago.
Under the interim order, the Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton is expected to authorise the man's removal from the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation.
The court ordered that "as soon as reasonably practicable, but in any event by no later than 1.00 pm on 13 August 2020, the respondents cease to detain the applicant at the Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation centre".
Where the man is taken is at the minister's discretion and Justice Murphy has ordered the minister to give the man's lawyers 24 hours notice.
Given the order terms, this is likely to happen by Wednesday, unless appealed.
According to the man's lawyer Sanmati Verma, from Clothier Anderson Immigration Lawyers, the commonwealth's next move is clear.
"The court's decision makes it clear the commonwealth is unable to ensure the safety of vulnerable people such as our client in detention," she said in a statement.
Human rights law groups have called on Mr Dutton to release the man back into the community.
"Medical experts have warned for months about the risks of COVID-19 in immigration detention in Australia," Human Rights Law Centre legal director David Burke said in a statement.