Federal govt defends Djokovic detention


Tennis world No.1 Novak Djokovic, who is fighting federal government efforts to deport him, fell foul of entry requirements related to his COVID-19 vaccination status.

Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said on Friday anyone entering Australia had to show evidence of vaccination or medical reasons why they are not vaccinated.

“I know there is a lot of chatter about the visa. The visa, on my understanding, is not the issue, it is the entry requirement,” she told Nine Network.

“The (Australian) Border Force has been very clear that he was not able to meet the requirement to provide the evidence he needed for entry to Australia.”

Ms Andrews also confirmed the ABF, which she oversees, is investigating other international tennis players who have travelled to Australia in similar circumstances for the Australian Open in Melbourne, which begins later this month.

“I will be briefed further on that potentially today,” she said.

“But we do have the intelligence to indicate there are some individuals here now that have not met the entry requirements and we have to investigate that.”

Ms Andrews could not say how many players were being investigated.

Djokovic, who arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday night, was formally denied entry on Thursday and is currently being held in an inner north Melbourne hotel while he mounts a legal challenge against his threatened deportation.

His case began on Thursday in the Federal Court and will return on Monday for a final hearing.

The Serbian superstar has argued he had a vaccination exemption allowing him to travel to Australia.

But it appears he only had an exemption provided by Tennis Australia and the Victorian government to participate in the competition.

Djokovic has not publically revealed his vaccination status but it’s believed he is unvaccinated and was relying on his previous infection with COVID-19 to gain entry to Australia.

Djokovic could be called to give evidence virtually in court on Monday.

Meanwhile, Djokovic’s family in Serbia have rallied around the nine-time Australian Open champion, accusing the federal government of keeping him in captivity and comparing him to Jesus.

“They’re keeping him in captivity. They are trampling on Novak and thus they are trampling on Serbia and the Serbian people,” Djokovic’s father Srdjan said at a news conference in Belgrade on Thursday.

“(Australian Prime Minister, Scott) Morrison and his like have dared attack Novak to bring Serbia to its knees. Novak has always shown that he comes from a proud nation.

“This has nothing to do with sports, this is a political agenda. 

“Novak is the best player and the best athlete in the world, but several hundred million people from the West can’t stomach that.

“They crucified Jesus and now they are trying to crucify Novak the same way and force him on his knees.”

Djokovic’s family displayed his nine Australian Open trophies at the news conference and are organising a rally in front of Serbia’s parliament to protest his treatment.

The Park Hotel in Carlton, where Djokovic is being detained, is infamous.

For more than a year, it has housed asylum seekers flown to Australia from detention centres on Manus Island and Nauru for urgent medical care under now-defunct Medevac laws.

There was a COVID-19 outbreak at the hotel in October, with at least 22 of 46 refugees and asylum seekers testing positive.

Two weeks ago, two fires broke out on the third and fourth floors. A person was taken to hospital with smoke inhalation and police said a staff member was assaulted.

Refugee advocates estimate about 32 male detainees are still being held in the hotel.

The Australian Open begins on January 17.