Novak Djokovic’s Visa Canceled Again by Australia

Credit…Mark Baker / Associated press

Serbian tennis star Novak Djokovic had his visa revoked a second time by Australian authorities on Friday, 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.

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.

The minister gave no further details about his decision to revoke the visa other than to say that the Australian government was committed to protecting the country’s borders during the pandemic.

We did not know what would happen next, with the start of the Australian Open in three days. Djokovic could return to court to seek an overturn of the decision, but legal experts have said he may have little chance of success after winning his first round in court 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. Thus, the only way he could appeal would be to prove that there is no public interest ground 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 the country 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 allowed him to obtain an exemption from the state health authorities in Victoria will play at the Australian Open.

Djokovic’s statement read both as a desperate plea for leniency and an explanation for the irresponsible behavior of a star athlete not used to being held accountable. He said a member of his support team made “human error” while filling out his papers. He also said he made the wrong decision to go through an in-person interview and photoshoot with a French sports publication after testing positive for the coronavirus.

Franck Ramella, a journalist with the French sports newspaper L’Equipe, wrote this week that when he conducted the interview on December 18, he was unaware that Djokovic had just tested positive for the coronavirus.

Credit…Lukas Coch / EPA, via Shutterstock

Djokovic said he was not yet aware he had tested positive when he attended a tennis event on December 17 in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, where he presented prizes to children. But his positive test record shows he was tested at 1:05 p.m. on December 16 and tested positive seven hours later.

“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.

Earlier this week, it emerged that Djokovic would be able to pull it off, even though he would most likely be the only unvaccinated player in the men’s tournament. On Thursday, he was installed as the No. 1 seed in the men’s category.

On Monday afternoon, a judge found that Djokovic had been treated unfairly upon his arrival late on January 5 at a Melbourne airport, where he was questioned for hours and denied the opportunity to contact his lawyers or officials of the Australian Open.

The judge ordered Djokovic’s visa reinstated, freeing him from the hotel for refugees and asylum seekers where he had been held for five days and clearing the way for him to compete for a 21st Grand Slam tournament title.

Credit…Loren Elliott / Reuters

Australian tennis officials had granted Djokovic exemption from vaccination, in consultation with state officials, to participate in the tournament, which begins Monday in Melbourne. But border officials canceled his visa with the backing of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying Djokovic remains under the requirement that anyone entering the country be fully vaccinated.

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 contributed report.

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