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Australia calls foul, cancels Djokovic’s visa again as Serbian tennis star faces deportation to forfeit title defense

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Novak Djokovic v Tomas Berdych, ATP World Tour Finals, the O2, London November 2011. Photo courtesy Carine06 | Flickr

So far it’s a double fault for the Serb tennis star. Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has announced his decision to re-cancel the visa of Serbian tennis player Novak Dokovic, on the grounds of “health and good order.”

In an official statement posted Friday evening on the website for the Department of Home Affairs, Hawke wrote: “Today I exercised my power… to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”

The long-awaited decision, as reported by the BBC, comes in the wake of a new discrepancy with his travel declaration form upon arrival in Melbourne last week, as well as increasing controversy over his claims about his whereabouts in the days following his positive PCR test for Covid-19 last month.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has previously been critical of Djokovic’s case, affirmed Hawke’s decision to re-cancel the tennis player’s visa, in a response statement posted on his government webpage Friday evening.

“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” Morrison wrote. “This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today.”

The Serbian tennis star was first detained by immigration officers after his arrival on January 5. After a series of interviews, the Australian Border Force (immigration officials) decided he did not have a valid medical exemption for Covid-19 to enter the country, and revoked his visa.

He then remained in an immigration detention facility until last Monday, when a federal judge ruled in his favour to reinstate his visa, allowing him into Australia for the tournament.

It was then revealed that Immigration Minister Ethan Hawke still had the power to personally revoke Djokovic’s visa a second time and deport him back to Serbia.

As the world held its breath for a final decision, Djokovic was allowed to prepare for the tournament in a precarious state of visa limbo.

In a lengthy Twitter post on Wednesday, Djokovic attempted to set the record straight about where he went and what he did after testing positive for Covid-19 in Belgrade on December 16, in which he admitted to breaking self-isolation in his home country.

He also blamed the mistake on his Australian travel declaration form on his agent, saying it was a matter of “human error” that he had incorrectly ticked the box stating the tennis player had not travelled to any other countries in the 14 days prior to his arrival in Australian.

In fact, Djokovic was filmed practicing at a tennis facility in Marbella, Spain.

The 9 time Australian Open champion is already scheduled to face compatriot Miomir Kecmanović in the first round of the tournament on Monday. If deported, his forced forfeiture would shake up the men’s bracket, which was drawn after a delay on Thursday evening, The Olympian reported.

Djokovic can still launch another legal challenge to remain in the country, but with the tennis tournament set to begin in just 3 days, it is unlikely he will get a court ruling in time — or in his favour.

Even if his case does go back to court this weekend, it’s an uphill battle for the Serbian, with increasing discontent among many Australians, who see the World No. 1 tennis player as ‘privileged’ and having received preferential treatment to enter their country without being vaccinated for Covid-19.

Read the full statement from Immigration Minister Alex Hawke below:

Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.

This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds.

In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic.

The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.

I thank the officers of the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force who work every day to serve Australia’s interests in increasingly challenging operational environments.

Read the full response statement from Prime Minister Scott Morrison below:

I note the Minister for Immigration’s decision in relation to Mr Novak Djokovic’s visa.

I understand that following careful consideration, action has been taken by the Minister to cancel Mr Djokovic’s visa held on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.

This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods.

Together we have achieved one of the lowest death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates, in the world.

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.

Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to COVID and now during the pandemic.

Due to the expected ongoing legal proceedings, I will be not be providing any further comment.

SOURCE: BBC | 9News | The Olympian | Department of Home Affairs | Prime Minster of Australia

 

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