Melbourne: Novak Djokovic’s lawyers on Friday said that the Australian government has cancelled the World No. 1 tennis player’s visa on the grounds that his presence in the country might excite anti-vaccination sentiment, and not because he posed a health threat being unvaccinated against Covid-19, terming it as an ‘irrational’ decision.
Australia cancelled Djokovic’s visa for a second time, in a row over his right to remain in the country unvaccinated.
“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,” Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement.
His statement added that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
At an emergency late-night court hearing, Judge Anthony Kelly ruled that Djokovic cannot be deported while the appeal proceedings are happening. An appeal hearing is expected on Sunday, a BBC report said.
The judge also said the government could detain Djokovic after he meets immigration officials in Melbourne on Saturday morning. However, he will be allowed to go to his lawyers’ offices to prepare his case ahead of Sunday’s hearing.
Citing a government document with more details on why it has been revoked, Djokovic’s lawyer, Nicholas Wood, said it was not because he is a danger to the public, but because “he will excite anti-vax sentiment”.
“The minister only considers the potential for exciting anti-vax sentiment in the event that he’s present,” Wood said.
“The minister gives no consideration whatsoever to what effect that may have on anti-vax sentiment and indeed on public order. That seems patently irrational,” he added.
As of now, Djokovic remains free on Friday night but would effectively return to immigration detention when he meets with Australian Border Force officials at 0800 hrs on Saturday. He would spend the morning at his lawyers’ offices under Border Force guard and return to hotel detention Saturday afternoon.
Deportation from Australia can lead to a three-year ban from the country, although that may be waived, depending on the circumstances.
On Thursday, the Serbian was included in the draw and was scheduled to start his Australian Open campaign against world No. 78, compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic.
The Australian Open begins on January 17.