Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic had his visa revoked a second time by Australian authorities on Friday and was due to be detained again on Saturday, the last dizzying volley in an endless drama about his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement he was canceling Djokovic’s visa for “health and good order” reasons, adding that it was in the public interest to do so. Djokovic’s lawyers have said they will appeal immediately, with the Australian Open starting on Monday and his ability to compete for a men’s record 21st Grand Slam title increasingly threatened.
Hawke took action four days after Djokovic won a legal victory that freed him from immigrant detention, where he had been held since arriving at Melbourne Airport last week.
Explaining his decision to revoke the visa, the minister said the Australian government is committed to protecting the country’s borders during the pandemic.
Djokovic’s lawyers said at a circuit court hearing Friday night that they would challenge the ruling, and a judge ordered the government not to deport him while the appeal is being heard.
After this hearing, the case was transferred to another judge, David O’Callaghan of the Federal Court of Australia. He will preside over a new hearing on Saturday at 10:15 a.m.
Legal experts have said Djokovic may have little chance of seeing the ruling overturned, despite his first-round victory in court earlier this week on narrow procedural grounds.
Mary Crock, a law professor at the University of Sydney, said it would be “very, very difficult” for Djokovic to win an appeal. “The rules of natural justice and procedure do not apply,” she said. So the only way he could be successful on appeal would be to prove that there is no public interest basis on which the visa could have been canceled.
A federal investigation by Hawke had revealed that Djokovic had provided false information about documents he gave to border officials when he tried to enter Australia last week.
These documents did not indicate that Djokovic, who lives in Monte Carlo, had traveled between Serbia and Spain in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australia.
In a social media post on Wednesday, Djokovic acknowledged the inaccuracies and answered questions about his movements in the days before and after his positive coronavirus test on December 16. This test result had enabled him to obtain an exemption from the state health authorities. to Victoria to play at the Australian Open, where he is the defending champion, although he has not been vaccinated.
“I just want to have the opportunity to compete with the best players in the world and play in front of one of the best crowds in the world,” Djokovic said in the post.
Djokovic arrived in Australia late on January 5, but a few hours later, and after an interview at the airport, border officials canceled his visa, saying he remained subject to the requirement that anyone entering the country is fully vaccinated. He spent five days in a hotel for refugees and asylum seekers, until a judge found on Monday that he had been treated unfairly and ordered Djokovic’s release with his visa reinstated.
The court ruling did not end the case, but instead focused on Djokovic’s supporting documents, the legitimacy of his coronavirus test, and basic questions about what Djokovic knew about his diagnosis and when he found out.
Legally, Hawke, the Minister of Immigration, can cancel a visa for reasons of character or if he finds the records to be false, or if he believes the recipient of the visa poses a risk to health or safety. . Hawke made his decision as Australia is in the midst of its worst fight against the coronavirus.
Mike ives and Matthew Futterman contributed reporting.