Djokovic faces deportation from Australia Open, visa revoked again
Novak Djokovic faces expulsion from the Australian Open and deportation after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time.
According to the Associated Press, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the No. 1-ranked tennis player will be allowed to compete in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated for COVID-19 is that the Serbian’s visa has been canceled for the second time.
Alex Hawke, the Australian immigration minister disclosed on Friday, January 14 that he used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old Serbian’s visa on public interest grounds just three days before play begins at the Australian Open.
It is on record that Djokovic, the Australian Open defending champion has won a record nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic’s lawyers were expected to appeal at the Federal Circuit and Family Court, which they already successfully did last week on procedural grounds after his visa was first canceled when he landed at a Melbourne airport.
A hearing on the recent development is scheduled for Friday night. If Djokovic is eventually deported from Australia, he may face a three-year ban on returning to the country, although that may be waived, depending on the circumstances.
The minister 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 Scott Morrison’s government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Scott Morrison, the prime minister of Australia has himself welcomed Djokovic’s pending deportation. The whole episode has touched a nerve in Australia, and particularly in Victoria State, where citizens went through hundreds of days of lockdowns during the worst of the pandemic and there is a vaccination rate among adults of more than 90%.
Australia is currently facing a massive surge in virus cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant. On Friday, the country reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria State. Although many infected people are not getting as sick as they did in previous outbreaks, the surge is still putting severe strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It is also causing disruptions to workplaces and supply chains.
According to a statement released by Morrison, “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. 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 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.
However, the 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 January 5.
According to Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to pull out of the tournament before the order of play for Day 1 is announced, No. 5 seed Rublev would move into Djokovic’s spot in the bracket and face Kecmanovic.