The Australian government revoked the visa of the world’s top ranked men’s tennis player, Novak Djokovic, for the second time on Friday because he is unvaccinated and provided false information on his travel documents.
The Associated Press reports:
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Friday he used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds — just three days before play begins at the Australian Open, where Djokovic has won a record nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles.
Three hours later, Djokovic’s lawyers began their appeal against the visa cancellation in an after-hours hearing at the Federal Circuit and Family Court. The same judge, Anthony Kelly, ruled in favor of Djokovic last week on procedural grounds after his visa was first canceled when he landed at a Melbourne airport.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison defended Friday’s decision, saying “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”
Djokovic’s lawyers said the visa repeal is “patently irrational.”
The New York Times adds:
Mary Crock, a law professor at the University of Sydney, said it would be “very, very hard” for Djokovic to win any appeal. “The rules of natural justice and procedure don’t apply,” she said. So the only way he succeed in an appeal would be to prove there is no public-interest basis on which the visa could have been canceled.
A federal investigation led by Hawke had revealed that Djokovic provided false information on the documents he gave to border officials when he tried to enter Australia last week.
Those documents failed to state that Djokovic, who lives in Monte Carlo, had traveled between Serbia and Spain during the 14 days ahead of his arrival in Australia.
Djokovic will be remanded to hotel detention this weekend. If he is ultimately deported, he faces the prospect of a three year ban from Australia.
This is the second time Djokovic will be detained in Australia. The AP provides additional background.
Everyone at the Australian Open — including players, their support teams and spectators — is required to be vaccinated for the illness caused by the coronavirus. Djokovic is not inoculated and had sought a medical exemption on the grounds that he had COVID-19 in December.
That exemption was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. But the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and canceled his visa when he landed in Melbourne on Jan. 5.
Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before a judge on Monday overturned that decision. That ruling allowed Djokovic to move freely around Australia and he has been practicing at Melbourne Park daily to prepare to play in a tournament he has won each of the past three years.
The BBC reports:
Although Djokovic is not vaccinated, he has not actively promoted anti-vax disinformation. However, Australian anti-vaxxers have been using the hashtag #IStandWithDjokovic on social media.
The outlet adds:
[Djokovic’s] initial announcement that he was coming to play in the Open prompted a backlash from some Australians, who have lived under long and strict Covid lockdowns, because it was unclear if he could meet the country’s strict entry rules. Melbourne in particular was hard hit by lockdowns, enduring 262 days under heavy restrictions last year.