Australia Cancels Tennis Star Djokovic’s Visa Citing Health Risk | World News

By Ian Ransom and Sonali Paul

MELBOURNE (Reuters) – Australia revoked Novak Djokovic’s visa for the second time on Friday, saying the world’s number one tennis player who had not been vaccinated against COVID-19 could pose a health risk, effectively ending his bid for a 21st Grand Slam title. Australian Open.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used discretionary powers to revoke Djokovic’s visa again, after an earlier cancellation court overturned and released him from an immigration detention center on Monday. It was not clear if he would be taken back into custody.

“Today I exercised my power under Section 133c(3) of the Immigration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr. Novak Djokovic on grounds of health and order, on the grounds that it is in the public interest to do so,” Hook said. a permit.

Under the section of immigration law used to cancel a visa, Djokovic will not be able to secure a visa to Australia for a period of three years, except in force majeure circumstances that affect Australia’s interest.

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The decision to revoke his visa due to COVID-19 entry regulations raises the prospect of a possible second court battle by the Serbian tennis star to allow him to stay and play in the Open starting Monday.

A source close to Djokovic’s team confirmed that he is considering the decision and is considering his options.

The controversy has taken on significance beyond tennis: it intensified the global debate over the rights of the unvaccinated and became a difficult political issue for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he campaigned for elections scheduled for May.

While the Morrison government has won support at home for its tough stance on border security during the pandemic, it has not escaped criticism over the failed handling of Djokovic’s visa.

“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect to protect the result of those sacrifices,” Morrison said in a statement.

“That’s what the Minister is doing in taking this action today. Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe,” he said. “Due to anticipated ongoing legal proceedings, I will not make any further comment.”

Djokovic, 34, the Australian Open champion, was included in the draw as the top seed and was due to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kekmanovic in his opening match next week.

A relaxed Djokovic trained his serve and returned with his entourage in an empty stadium at Melbourne Park earlier on Friday, occasionally resting in a chair to wipe the sweat from his face.

Djokovic, a vaccine skeptic, sparked widespread outrage in Australia when he announced last week that he was heading to Melbourne with a medical exemption from requirements to vaccinate visitors against COVID-19.

Upon his arrival, the Australian Border Force determined his exemption was invalid and placed him in an immigration detention hotel with asylum seekers for several days.

Hook said he had carefully studied the information from Djokovic and the Australian authorities, adding that the government was “strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

Australia has experienced some of the longest lockdowns in the world, has a 90% vaccination rate among adults, and has seen a rapid Omicron outbreak bringing in nearly a million cases in the past two weeks.

Greece’s world number four Stefanos Tsitsipas, speaking before Hook’s decision, said Djokovic was “playing by his own rules” and making immune players “look fools”.

“No one really thought they could come to Australia without getting vaccinated and not having to follow protocols,” Tsitsipas said in an interview with India’s WION news channel.

An online poll by News Corp Media group shows that 83% support the government’s attempt to deport the tennis star.

“Scott Morrison made the rational decision to bring the wealthy tennis star home after calculating the enormous political cost of giving him special treatment,” David Crowe, chief political correspondent for the Sydney Morning Herald and Edge wrote.

Opposition Labor leader Anthony Albanese said: “This should never have happened…how is this visa granted in the first place if he doesn’t qualify because he hasn’t been fully vaccinated.”

Vaccination opponents hailed him as a hero while Djokovic’s family and the Serbian government portrayed him as a victim of persecution.

A false entry declaration did not help Djokovic’s case, as a box was ticked stating that he had not traveled abroad in the two weeks prior to his departure for Australia.

In fact, he has traveled between Spain and Serbia.

Djokovic blamed his agent for the mistake and admitted he also shouldn’t have given an interview or photoshoot for a French newspaper on December 18 while he had COVID-19.

Abu al-Razawi, a former senior official in immigration affairs, told Reuters before the decision that the immigration law was only taken in “extreme circumstances.”

“I don’t remember an example when a minister used this, it’s rare.. and would place a three-year ban on his return to Australia.”

(Reporting by Sonali Paul and Ian Ransom in Melbourne; Writing by Michael Berry; Editing by Richard Boleyn and Robert Persell)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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