Tennis' number one player Novak Djokovic faces deportation yet again from Australia after his visa was revoked for a second time after a judge had allowed him to enter the country despite not being vaccinated against COVID-19, which is mandatory for all foreigners wishing to enter the country.
Australia's Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs Alex Hawke said he exercised his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old’s visa on public interest grounds three days ahead of the tournament's beginning. Hawke said he canceled the visa on “health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.” His statement added that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Djokovic has won the Australian Open nine times as well as 11 other Grand Slam titles. His lawyers launched yet another legal battle against the visa cancelation, once again before Judge Anthony Kelly's court, the one which had ruled in Djokovic's favor earlier this week on procedural grounds.
Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood said he hoped an appeal would be heard Saturday and that Djokovic would have his visa returned in time to play on Monday. Djokovic’s main ground of appeal against Hawke’s decision was that it was not based on the health risk that the tennis champion might pose by not being vaccinated, but on how he might be perceived by anti-vaccine protesters. “The minister only considers the potential for exciting anti-vaxx sentiment in the event that he’s present,” Wood said.
Following the new decision, Djokovic was to return to the immigration detention hotel he was housed at upon landing in Melbourne. Deportation from Australia can lead to a three-year ban from returning to the country.
Prime Minister Morrison welcomed Djokovic’s pending deportation. “This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stuck 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. “This is what the minister is doing in taking this action today.”
Everyone at the Australian Open — including players, their support teams and spectators — is required to be vaccinated. Djokovic is not inoculated and had sought a medical exemption on the grounds that he had contracted COVID-19 last month. That exemption was approved by the Victoria State Government and Tennis Australia, but the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and canceled his visa when he landed in Melbourne on Wednesday last week. Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention facility before Kelly on Monday overturned that decision.