Visa revoked again, Djokovic faces deportation


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP)

Novak Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government revoked his visa for the second time, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the No 1 player will be allowed to compete. compete at the Australian Open whether or not he has been vaccinated against COVID-19. .

On Friday, Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said he had used his discretion to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa in the public interest – just three days before the match kicks off in Australia. Open, where Djokovic won a record 9 out of 20 Grands. Slam title.

Djokovic’s attorneys are expected to appeal in Federal Circuit and Family Court, which they successfully did last week on a procedural basis after his visa was canceled for the first time. when he landed at Melbourne airport.

A hearing has been scheduled for Friday night.

Deportation from Australia could result in a three-year ban from returning to the country, although that may be waived, depending on the circumstances.

Hawke said he had canceled the visa for “good health and good standing, on the basis that it was in the public interest.” His statement added that Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government was “resolutely committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Morrison himself also welcomed the fact that Djokovic was awaiting deportation. The entire episode has been deeply emotional in Australia, and especially in Victoria, where locals have experienced hundreds of days of lockdown during the worst of the pandemic and adult vaccination rates. is more than 90%.

Australia is currently facing a large increase in virus cases due to the highly transmissible omicron variant. On Friday, the nation reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria. While many infected people are not getting sick as in previous outbreaks, the outbreak is still putting a severe strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It also causes disruption to the workplace and the supply chain.

“This pandemic has been extremely difficult for all Australians but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. … Australians have made so many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they truly expect the results of those sacrifices to be protected,” Morrisson said in a statement. “This is what the Minister is doing in this action today.”

Everyone at the Australian Open – including the players, their supporters and spectators – is required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus. Djokovic is unvaccinated and applied for a medical exemption on the grounds that he contracted COVID-19 in December.

That exemption has been approved by the Victorian and Tennis Australia state governments, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel. But the Australian Border Force denied his waiver and canceled his visa when he landed in Melbourne on January 5.

Djokovic spent four nights in an immigration detention hotel before a judge overturned the decision on Monday. That ruling gives Djokovic the freedom to move around Australia and he has trained daily at Melbourne Park to prepare to compete in a tournament he has won for the past three years.

He had a training session originally scheduled for mid-afternoon Friday at Rod Laver Arena, the main stadium of the tournament, but pushed that practice to the morning and ended a few hours before his decision. Hawke was announced early in the evening.

After Hawke’s visa was cancelled, the media began to gather outside the building where Djokovic is said to be meeting with his lawyers.

An Australian Open spokesman said tournament organizers did not have any immediate comment on the latest developments in Djokovic’s situation, which has eclipsed all other stories of the incident. First Grand Slam event of the year.

Tennis Australia announced that nine players will hold a pre-tournament press conference on Saturday, and Djokovic’s name is not on the list.

With his legal situation still in limbo, Djokovic was placed in the group in Thursday’s draw, expected to face Miomir Kecmanovic in an all-Serbian match in the first round.

Under Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the order to play for Day 1 is announced, fifth seed Rublev will move into Djokovic’s position during the match and face Kecmanovic.

If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule is announced, he will be replaced on the court by a so-called “lucky loser” – a player who lost the qualifying tournament but was entered the main draw because another player dropped out before the contest match had started.

And if Djokovic competes in one match – or more – and is later told he can’t enter the tournament anymore, his next opponent will simply advance to the next round and will be empty. to replace.

Melbourne-based immigration attorney Kian Bone said Djokovic’s lawyers faced an “incredibly difficult” task of getting a court order by the end of the week to allow their client to act. match next week.

Speaking hours before Hawke’s decision was announced, Bone said: “If you leave it for later than now, I think from a strategic point of view, he’s really hindered Djokovic’s legal team, in terms of eliminations. options or remedies that he can achieve. . ”

Djokovic’s attorneys will need to go before a judge in the Federal Circuit and Family Court, or a higher judge of the Federal Court, to receive the two emergency orders. An order would be an order preventing his deportation, such as what he won in court last week.

The latter forced Hawke to issue a competition visa to Djokovic.

“The second order was almost unheard of,” says Bone. “It is very rare that a court requires a member of the executive government to issue a visa.”


McGuirk reports from Canberra, Australia.

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