Another detention centre was set on fire by detainees in April earlier this year during a protest [EPA]

A fire was reported at an immigration detention centre in Australia ahead of a final ruling by the nation's highest court on the legality of a pending immigrant swap deal with Malaysia.

Fire engines, police and ambulances were called to disturbances at the centre in the far-north city of Darwin on Wednesday, national broadcaster ABC reported.

Two weeks ago, the court held up the deal which will see Canberra taking 4,000 refugees from Malaysia in return for Kuala Lumpur taking 800 asylum seekers from Australia.

That ruling granted a temporary injunction to civil rights lawyers acting on behalf of asylum seekers.

The lawyers argued that the deportations would be illegal because Malaysia does not meet the human rights standards stipulated in Australian law, as it is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention.

Immigration Minister Chris Bowen, in a filing to the court, said Malaysia had made a "significant conceptual shift" in its treatment of asylum seekers and he deemed conditions there acceptable.

Canberra is relying on the deal to deter the mostly Middle Eastern migrants who buy passages on Indonesian fishing boats to get to Australia and claim asylum.

Source: Agencies