Novak Djokovic visa: Australian minister Alex Hawke says risk of ‘civil unrest’ behind cancellation | Novak Djokovic

Tennis champion Novak Djokovic, who has been described as at risk for “civil unrest” and a “talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment”, may never get the chance to defend his Australian Open title, with a three-year ban from the country that lies before him of a last-ditch lawsuit to stay.

Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has personally canceled the World’s No. 1 Unvaccinated Visa, arguing that his presence in Australia could incite “civil unrest” and encourage others to seek vaccination against Covid- 19 to avoid.

Djokovic will face a federal court hearing on Sunday morning, Australian time, which will determine whether the minister acted unreasonably by revoking his visa.

Documents filed in court reveal the reasons the minister sent to Djokovic as justification for canceling his visa.

Hawke said he accepted Djokovic’s recent Covid-19 infection, which meant he was a “negligible risk to those around him”, but that he was “seen by some as a talisman of a community of anti-vaccine sentiment.” “.

“I believe that Mr Djokovic’s continued presence in Australia could lead to an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment being generated in the Australian community, potentially leading to an increase in civil unrest of the kind previously seen in Australia has been experienced with demonstrations and protests which are themselves a source of community transfer.

“Mr. Djokovic is… a person of influence and status.

“Given Mr Djokovic’s behavior after receiving a positive Covid-19 result, his publicly expressed views, as well as his unvaccinated status, I believe that his continued presence in Australia may encourage other people to follow the public health advice. ignore or act contrary to them. and policy in Australia.”

Djokovic’s visa was canceled under the extraordinary and broad powers granted to the Australian Immigration Minister under Section 133C(3) of the Australian Migration Act, introduced in 2014 when Scott Morrison, the current Prime Minister, was Immigration Minister.

After a visa has been canceled under that section, a person will not be allowed to return to Australia for three years, except in extraordinary circumstances “adjuring the interests of Australia or compassionate or compelling circumstances prejudicial to the interests of an Australian citizen”.

Hawke said the consequences of Djokovic’s visa cancellation were “significant”.

“Mr Djokovic regularly travels to Australia to participate in tennis tournaments…this visa cancellation…may affect his ability to obtain a visa to enter Australia in the future.”

If the three-year ban against Djokovic is upheld, he would be 37 or 38 years old before being allowed back to Australia to participate in a tournament he has won nine times.

Djokovic’s legal team argued that the minister had not considered that Djokovic’s detention by the government and his possible forced removal from Australia could also lead to anti-vaccination sentiments.

In documents submitted to the court, Djokovic’s lawyers argued that the minister was an “illogical, irrational, [and] unreasonable approach to … the question of public interest” and its own exercise of ministerial discretion.

“The minister cited no evidence to support his finding that Mr Djokovic’s presence in Australia ‘could promote anti-vaccination sentiment’ and the minister was not open to drawing that conclusion.”

Migration experts have questioned why, if the Australian government was concerned that Djokovic would spark anti-vaccination sentiment in Australia, it was not taken into account in the original decision to grant him a visa on November 18, or when his visa for it was first canceled at the airport.

Djokovic’s treatment sparked fierce reactions in Serbia, where the Belgrade-born player is a national hero.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić took to social media to denounce “harassment” and a “political witch hunt” targeting “the best tennis player in the world”, while the foreign ministry said he was “lured to Australia.” to be humiliated”.

The Djokovic visa saga has now lasted 10 days, a distraction from the rising number of cases of Omicron variants across Australia, a lack of testing, shortages of food and supplies, and a public health system under acute pressure.

Djokovic arrived in Australia on the evening of January 5. He believed that a visa granted on November 18 and a waiver approved by Tennis Australia’s chief medical officer and an independent panel of experts from the Victorian government would be sufficient to enter Australia.

After nighttime interrogation at Melbourne airport, Djokovic’s visa was initially canceled by a Home Secretary deputy last Thursday, as a recent Covid infection alone was not sufficient for an exemption from Australia’s strict vaccination requirements.

The deputy concluded that, as he had not been vaccinated, Djokovic posed a risk to public health.

But on Monday, a federal judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa, ruling that it was unreasonable for the Australian Border Patrol to break a deal to give him more time at the airport to contact his legal team and to inform the police. address the exemption.

Government lawyers immediately informed the Australian Open No 1 seed that the immigration minister would consider exercising his personal power to revoke the visa.

Djokovic faced a nervous wait, with questions about his journey in the fortnight before arriving in Australia and attending events following his positive Covid diagnosis on December 16.

On Wednesday, Djokovic admitted his agent made an “clerical error” when he stated that he had not traveled in the two weeks before his flight to Australia, and acknowledged an “error of judgment” in not isolating himself after testing positive for covid. Hawke said these were not major factors in his decision to revoke Djokovic’s visa, and he accepted Djokovic’s explanation.

Djokovic is currently in immigration detention in Melbourne. His case will be heard in federal court on Sunday morning Australian time. If he loses, he risks expulsion from Australia.

The Australian Open starts on Monday.

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