Australia cancels Novak Djokovic’s visa again only days before the Australian Open

Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic practices in Melbourne Park
Tennis star Novak Djokovic practices in Melbourne Park for the Australian Open on January 14, 2022.

AAP Image / Diego Fedele via REUTERS


Novak Djokovic is being expelled again after the Australian government revokes his visa for the second time, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the world’s top-ranked tennis player will be allowed to compete in the Australian Open, despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said on Friday that he used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa for reasons of public interest – just three days before the match starts at the Australian Open, where Djokovic has reached a record nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles won. . Djokovic is the defending champion of the Open and is looking for a 21st Grand Slam title overall for men, a record.

Three hours later, Djokovic’s lawyers filed their appeal against the visa withdrawal during an after-hours hearing at the Federal Circuit and Family Court. The same judge at that hearing, Anthony Kelly, ruled in favor of Djokovic . last week for procedural reasons after his visa was first canceled when he landed at a Melbourne airport.

His lawyer, Nick Wood, told Kelly he hoped the appeal would be heard on Sunday and that Djokovic would get his visa back in time to play Monday.

Under terms set out by the government, Djokovic would remain free Friday night but would effectively return to immigration detention when he meets with Australian Border Police (immigration) at 8 a.m. local time on Saturday at 8 a.m. local time (4 p.m. EST). ).

He would spend the morning in his lawyers’ office under border guard guard and return to the hotel detention on Saturday afternoon.

Deportation from Australia can lead to a three-year ban on returning to the country, although this may be waived depending on the circumstances.

Djokovic’s lawyers must deliver him two urgent orders. One is a ban on his deportation, like the warrant he was given last week. The second would get Hawke to grant Djokovic a visa to play.

“That second order is almost no precedent,” said Melbourne immigration attorney Kian Bone. “Very rarely do the courts order a member of the executive government to grant a visa.”

Hawke said he had revoked Djokovic’s visa for reasons of “health and good order, because it was in the public interest to do so”.

“The Morrison government is committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hawke said in a statement, referring to Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Morrison welcomed Djokovic’s imminent eviction and said Australia had achieved one of the lowest pandemic death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates in the world.

“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and they rightly expect the outcome of those sacrifices to be protected,” Morrison said in a statement. “This is what the minister is doing by taking this action today.”

Deportations usually come with a three-year ban on returning to Australia.

Despite the uncertainty surrounding Djokovic, the Open organizers took the top league of the tournament into the draw. He is slated to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic in the opening round, who is ranked No. 78 in the world, and he has practiced, including a session on Friday a few hours before Hawke’s decision was announced.

Djokovic’s waiver from a COVID-19 vaccination requirement to participate was approved by the State of Victoria and Tennis Australia, the tournament organizer. This apparently enabled him to obtain a visa to travel.

But the Australian Border Force rejected the waiver and canceled his visa on arrival in Melbourne. Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before the judge overturned that decision Monday.

Djokovic’s status is itself part of a larger, global debate over the rights of unvaccinated people.

Morrison is running for re-election and his government’s handling of the Djokovic visa situation has tarnished general praise in some quarters for his tough stance on border security during — and before, the pandemic.

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