Yesterday’s High Court ruling on temporary protection visas highlights again the fact that Australia’s refugee processing system is anything but.

Asylum seekers are held in limbo for years on end while decisions are supposedly made about their status as genuine refugees.

In truth, no such decisions are being made, and the time spent in detention serves two shameful purposes.

The first? Detained asylum seekers are there to act as miserable human deterrents to others thinking of attempting the journey.

The second is to buy time while the government spends millions of dollars — in a time of “fiscal emergency” — in legal fees to design and defend laws that prevent asylum seekers from ever being granted humanitarian protection.

The refugee at the centre of yesterday’s ruling spent two years detained on Christmas Island before he was finally granted a temporary humanitarian concern visa — and thereby prevented from applying for permanent protection — by Immigration Minister Scott Morrison. The court unanimously ruled the move invalid. The ruling will likely deal a significant blow to the government’s plans to reintroduce temporary protection visas.

The High Court also ruled that detention is “not an end in itself”. It’s a message that must to be heard by both sides of Australian politics.