Novak Djokovic is being deported again after the Australian government revokes his visa for a second time, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the number 1 ranked tennis player will be allowed to compete in the Australian Open despite not being vaccinated for COVID- 19 .
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said on Friday that he has used his ministerial discretion to revoke Djokovic’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.
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, Anthony Kelly, ruled in favor of Djokovic on procedural grounds earlier this week after his visa was first canceled when he landed at a Melbourne airport.
Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood told Kelly he hoped an appeal will be heard on Sunday and that Djokovic, who is from Serbia, will get his visa back in time so he can play Monday, when the top half of the draw will battle .
Djokovic, 34, will remain free Friday night but would effectively return to immigration detention when he meets Australian Border Force officials at 8am (4pm ET Friday) on Saturday.
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 from the country, although this can be waived depending on the circumstances.
Hawke said he canceled the visa “for reasons of health and good order, as it was in the public interest to do so”. His statement added that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government is “determined to protect Australia’s borders, particularly in light of the COVID-19 pandemic”.
Djokovic’s main defense against Hawke’s decision was that it was based not on the health risk the tennis champion could pose by not getting vaccinated, but on how he might be perceived by anti-vaxxers.
“The minister is only considering the potential for exciting anti-vax sentiment in the event that he attends,” Wood said.
Hawke’s reasons do not consider the potential impact on anti-vaxxers of Djokovic being forcibly removed, Wood said.
“The secretary is not taking into account the effect that could have on antivax sentiment and even public order,” Wood said. “That seems patently irrational.”
Morrison welcomed the imminent deportation of Djokovic. The entire episode has struck a chord in Australia, particularly in the state of Victoria, where locals experienced hundreds of days of lockdowns during the worst of the pandemic and adult vaccination rates exceed 90%.
Australia is facing a massive surge in coronavirus cases caused by the highly transmissible ommicron strain. On Friday, the country reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in the state of Victoria. While many infected people are not getting as sick as in previous outbreaks, the wave is still putting a heavy strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It also causes disruptions to workplaces and supply chains.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stayed together and saved lives and livelihoods. … Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” Morrison said. in a statement. “This is what the minister is doing by taking this action today.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic accused the Australian government on Friday of “harassing” and “abusing” Djokovic and asked if it is trying to score political points ahead of the upcoming election.
Everyone at the Australian Open – including players, their support teams and spectators – must be vaccinated against COVID-19. Djokovic has not been vaccinated and had applied for a medical waiver on the grounds that he had COVID-19 in December.
That waiver was approved by the state of Victoria and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. But the Australian Border Force rejected the waiver and canceled his visa when he landed in Melbourne on January 5.
Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before a judge overturned that decision Monday. The ruling allowed Djokovic to move freely around Australia, and he practices daily at Melbourne Park to prepare to play a tournament he has won over the past three years.
The organizers of the Australian Open have announced that the top half of the men’s and women’s draws will be played on Monday. That means that Djokovic, the top leaguer, should play on day 1 of the tournament.
He had scheduled a practice session in the mid-afternoon Friday afternoon at the Rod Laver Arena, the main stadium of the tournament, but pushed it through into the morning and finished just hours before Hawke’s decision was announced early in the evening.
After the visa cancellation, the media began to gather outside the building where Djokovic was reportedly meeting with his lawyers.
An Australian Open spokesperson said tournament organizers have no immediate comment on the latest development in Djokovic’s situation, which has overshadowed all other storylines to the first Grand Slam event of the year.
“It’s not a good situation for anyone,” said Andy Murray, a three-time Grand Slam champion and five-time runner-up at the Australian Open. “I just want it to be cleared up. I think it would be good for everyone if it was. It just seems like it’s been going on for quite a long time – not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak.”
World No. 4 Stefanos Tsitsipas, speaking for Hawke’s decision, said Djokovic “played by his own rules” and made vaccinated players “look like fools”.
Tennis Australia announced that nine players would hold pre-tournament press conferences on Saturday, and Djokovic’s name was not on the list.
Andy Murray says Novak Djokovic’s ongoing visa controversy is not good for the Australian Open.
With his legal situation in the dark, Djokovic was placed in the draw of the tournament in Thursday’s draw, where he will face Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round in an all-Serbian matchup.
According to Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the order of play for Day 1, Andrey Rublev with number 5 would move to Djokovic’s place in the bracket and face Kecmanovic.
If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s game schedule was announced, he would be replaced in the field by what is known as a “lucky loser” – a player who loses in the qualifier but ends up in the main draw because another player leave earlier competition has started.
And if Djokovic plays in a match and is then told that he can no longer participate in the tournament, his next opponent simply advances to the next round and there is no replacement.
Melbourne-based immigration attorney Kian Bone said Djokovic’s lawyers face an “extremely difficult” task to get court orders this weekend so their client can play next week.
Hours before Hawke’s decision was announced, Bone said: “If you leave it later than he has now, I think from a strategic point of view he really cripples Djokovic’s legal team, in terms of what kind of options or remedies he would can get. .”
Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.
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