Djokovic still faces the risk of deportation

MELBOURNE, Australia –

The prime ministers of Australia and Serbia on Tuesday discussed Novak Djokovic’s precarious visa after the top Serbian tennis star won his court match to compete at the Australian Open but still faces risk of deportation for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.

The deported film had polarizing reviews and generated strong support for the 20-time Grand Slam winner in his native Serbia.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Serbian counterpart, Ana Brnabic, agreed in their phone conversation to stay in touch about the 34-year-old’s disputed visa, Morrison’s office said.

“The Prime Minister explained our non-discriminatory border policy and its role in protecting Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Morrison’s office said in a statement. “Both agreed to stay in touch on the matter.”

Brnabic has asked Morrison to ensure the tennis star is treated fairly, Serbia’s public broadcaster Radio Television reported.

“The Prime Minister (Serbia) particularly emphasized the importance of training conditions and physical preparation for the upcoming competition, as Novak Djokovic has not been allowed to practice in the previous days and the tournament in Melbourne will starting this weekend,” RTS reported.

Djokovoc was training on a tennis court in Melbourne within hours of his oncourt win.

“I’m so happy and grateful that the Judge overturned my visa cancellation. Despite everything that happened, I want to stay and try to compete with @AustralianOpen. I’m focused on that.” , Djokovic tweeted shortly after midnight on Tuesday.

“I flew here to play at one of the most important events we’ve had in front of the amazing fans,” he added.

But immigration minister Alex Hawke is considering exercising his power to deport the tennis star under separate laws.

“The Secretary is currently reviewing the matter and the process is ongoing,” Hawke’s office said in a statement.

A border official canceled Djokovic’s visa at Melbourne airport last Thursday, hours after he arrived in Australia to compete in the tournament.

Djokovic was held in an isolated hotel room in Melbourne until Monday, when a judge reinstated his visa, citing a procedural error by border officials at the airport.

The unvaccinated 34-year-old was given an exemption from the vaccination regulations by Tennis Australia, the tournament’s organizer, to compete because he contracted COVID-19 last month.

But the Australian Border Force refused to grant him an exemption from the national immunization rules for new arrivals non-citizens.

It said an infection in the previous six months was only a basis for a vaccine exemption in cases where the coronavirus causes severe illness.

There are also new questions about Djokovic’s immigration application after documents released by the Federal Court showed he had told authorities he had not traveled in 14 days before his flight arrived. Australia.

Monte Carlo-based Djokovic arrived in Melbourne just before midnight on Wednesday, answering “no” to a question about the previous trip on his Australia Travel Statement form.

But the defending Australian Open champion was filmed playing tennis on the streets in the Serbian capital Belgrade on Christmas Day and training in Spain on December 31 – both in the 14th round. day.

The statement notes that providing false or misleading information is a serious offence, and civil penalties are also available.

Djokovic told border officers that Tennis Australia completed the declaration on his behalf, but the officer who canceled his visa noted that the sport agency would facilitate it “based on information that the person has received.” provided with a visa.”

Since Djokovic’s visa was cancelled, Czech tennis player Renata Vora─ìova and an unnamed European tennis official have been deported for similar reasons.

Morrison’s conservative government has blamed the failure of Tennis Australia, which ministers accused of misleading players about Australia’s vaccine requirements.

But newspapers reported Tennis Australia begged the Home Office to check the visa documents of Djokovic and the other players before they boarded the plane. Ministry did not.

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Kristina Keneally blamed the confusion over the tennis star’s visa on the government’s lack of planning.

Keneally said it should have been clear about whether Djokovic was entering the country to play at the Australian Open when he initially issued his visa.

“If (he) is deported, it will do incredible damage to Australia. If he stays, it will do amazing damage to our tough border laws and is an insult. really for Australians who have worked so hard on prevention and vaccination,” Keneally told Seven Network Television.

Keneally said Djokovic’s story made Australia “like a joke” on the world stage.

Daniel Andrews, prime minister of Victoria, which hosts the Australian Open, said the federal government had changed its border regulations in recent months.

“When we talk about exemptions in the past, you’ll recall that Secretary Hawke said he expected that if you weren’t double-blind, you wouldn’t be able to enter the country even though you were playing shorts. racket or anything else,” said Andrews, who like Keneally is a member of the centre-left Labor Party.

“It turned out that was not the position of the Commonwealth government and that they were letting in people who had not been twice vaxxed,” added Andrews.


McGuirk reports from Canberra, Australia.

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