Djokovic faces deportation as Australia revokes visa again

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) – Novak Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government revoked his visa for the second time, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the n-ranked tennis player ° 1 will be allowed to compete in the Australian Open despite not having been vaccinated against COVID-19.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said on Friday he had used his discretion to revoke the 34-year-old Serbian’s visa on public policy grounds – just three days before play started at the Open Australia, where Djokovic won a record nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles. .

Djokovic’s lawyers were due to appeal to the Federal Circuit and Family Court, which they did successfully last week on procedural grounds after his visa was first canceled when he landed at a Melbourne airport.

Deportation from Australia usually results in a three-year ban on re-entry. That would make Djokovic 37 the next time he was allowed to compete in the Australian Open.

Hawke said he canceled the visa for “reasons of health and good order, on the grounds that it was in the public interest to do so.” His statement added that the government of Prime Minister Scott Morrison “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, especially with regard to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Morrison hailed Djokovic’s impending expulsion, saying Australia has achieved one of the lowest pandemic death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates in the world.

“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian, but we have stood together and saved lives and livelihoods. … Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the outcome of those sacrifices to be protected, ”Morrison said in a statement. “That is what the minister is doing by taking this step today.”

Everyone at the Australian Open – including the players, their support teams and spectators – must be vaccinated against the disease caused by the coronavirus. Djokovic is not vaccinated and had requested a medical waiver on the grounds that he had COVID-19 in December.

This exemption has been approved by the state government of Victoria 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.

Djokovic spent four nights in a migrant detention hotel before a judge overturned the ruling on Monday. The move allowed Djokovic to roam freely in Australia and he trained at Melbourne Park to prepare for playing in a tournament he has won each of the past three years.

Djokovic has held training sessions every day since being released from detention, posting a photo of himself and his team on social media at Rod Laver Arena on Monday night.

He had scheduled a practice scheduled for mid-afternoon for Friday at the tournament’s main exhibition ground, but changed his schedules to start and finish early.

Media began to gather at the vehicle entrance to the building where Djokovic is said to have met his lawyers after the minister’s decision was delivered.

With his legal situation still in limbo, Djokovic was placed in the tournament bracket in Thursday’s draw, set to face Miomir Kecmanovic in an all-Serbian clash in the first round.

Melbourne-based immigration attorney Kian Bone said Djokovic’s lawyers faced an “extremely difficult” task of securing court orders over the weekend to allow their client to play the role. next week.

Speaking hours before Hawke’s decision was announced, Bone said: “If you left him later than he did now, I think strategically he really cripples Djokovic’s legal team, in terms of the kinds of options or remedies he could get. ”

Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to appear before a duty judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court, or a senior judge of the Federal Court, to obtain two urgent orders. An order would be an injunction preventing his deportation, like what he won in court last week. The second would force Hawke to grant Djokovic a visa to play.

“This second order has almost no precedent,” said Bone. “Very rarely do courts order a member of the executive government to grant a visa.”

Jacqui Lambie, an influential independent senator, argued that Djokovic should be fired if he broke Australian vaccine rules. But hours before the announcement of the visa cancellation, she complained about the time Hawke was taking to make a decision.

“Why does it keep flowing from the tap?” Alex Hawke, where are you? Missing? ”Lambie asked.

“If you can’t make a decision on Novak Djokovic, my God, how are you running the country? It’s a mess, ”she added.

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McGuirk reported from Canberra, Australia.

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