Djokovic to be deported amid visa drama
Melissa Woods and Ian Chadband |
Nine-time Australian Open champion Novak Djokovic could be deported later on Thursday after it was revealed the Serbian superstar tried to enter the country without a medical exemption.
The world No.1’s visa was revoked by the federal government, damning his hopes of landing a record 21st grand slam title in Melbourne later this month.
That will now rest on a successful injunction by Djokovic to stop the deportation.
Djokovic has been transported from Tullamarine airport, where he was detained by border authorities after arriving late on Wednesday night, to a quarantine hotel in the inner-Melbourne suburb of Carlton.
He will remain there until his flight out of Australia is arranged, which could come as early as Thursday night, pending legal action.
Djokovic’s first likely legal step is at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said entry to Australia required double vaccination or a medical exemption, which Djokovic did not have.
“People must be fully vaccinated as defined by ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation) to gain quarantine-free entry into Australia.
“That means people who do not meet the definition will not be approved for quarantine-free entry.
“I am advised that such an exemption was not in place and as a result he is subject to the same rule as anyone else.
“This is nothing about any one individual, it is simply a matter of following the rules, and so those processes will take their course over the next few hours and that event will play out as it should.”
Health Minister Greg Hunt confirmed Djokovic would have to leave the country after the cancellation of his visa.
“The ABF (Australian Border Force) can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia and his visa has been subsequently cancelled,” Hunt told the Seven Network.
“It’s a matter for him whether he wishes to appeal that but if a visa is cancelled, somebody will have to leave the country.
“That follows a review of the exemption which was provided through Victorian government processes.”
The move by the Australian government threatened to cause a diplomatic incident between Canberra and Belgrade.
“I’ve just finished my telephone conversation with Novak Djokovic,” Serbia president Aleksandar Vucic posted on Instagram.
“I told our Novak that the whole of Serbia is with him and that our bodies are doing everything to see that the harassment of the world’s best tennis player is brought to an end immediately.
“In line with all norms of international law, Serbia will fight for Novak, truth and justice.”
Djokovic had a vaccination exemption that allowed him to compete at the Australian Open but it didn’t appear to satisfy border entry requirements.
The world’s best men’s player spent Wednesday night in a police-guarded room at Melbourne Airport after a 14-hour flight from Dubai.
Djokovic’s entourage includes his coach, 2001 Wimbledon champion Goran Ivanisevic, who stated the obvious in a social media post after their arrival.
“Not the most usual trip from Down Under,” he posted on Instagram with a selfie from an airport lounge, accompanied by face-palm and mind-blown emojis.
Never a stranger to controversy, the 34-year-old Djokovic became the subject of a major public backlash after revealing on Tuesday that he’d received an exemption.
Amid the storm, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley insisted Djokovic was getting no special treatment.
Australia’s world No.1 Ash Barty said she understood the frustration in the community at the exemption decision.
“I think it’s a tough one … I know how hard it has been for Australians … but in particular Victorians have had a real rough trot over the last 18 months and two years.
“I understand why they may be frustrated with the decision.”