World No 1 expected to challenge decision
Novak Djokovic has had his Australian visa cancelled by immigration minister Alex Hawke “on health and good order grounds”, and now faces deportation from the country only three days before the start of the Australian Open.
In a statement on Friday, Hawke said: “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.”
He added that the government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic” and that he had “carefully considered” the Djokovic case.
Under this part of the Migration Act, Djokovic faces a three year ban from Australia, unless he can indicate compelling circumstances that are in Australia’s interests.
Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to appeal against the latest decision in the Federal Circuit and Family Court. But he is running out of time to overturn the move, with the Australian Open due to start on Monday.
The world No 1 travelled to Melbourne last week to defend his title in the upcoming tournament. Although he is not vaccinated, his exemption from the country’s coronavirus vaccination requirement was approved by the state of Victoria and Tennis Australia prior to his flight.
However, the Australian Border Force rejected his exemption when he landed in the country, leading him to spend four nights in hotel detention before the decision was quashed.
The defending Australian Open champion, who was hoping to secure a record 21st grand slam title at this year’s tournament, was included in the draw on Thursday. He was drawn against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round.
The saga has led to widespread anger in Australia, a country which has endured some of the world’s longest lockdowns and toughest border policies. A total of 83 per cent of Australians backed the government’s attempts to deport the tennis player, according to a poll by the News Corp media group.
The furore over Djokovic intensified when it emerged that an error had been made on his travel declaration. The world number one had claimed he had not travelled in the two weeks before his flight to Australia, but social media pictures appeared to show otherwise.
Last week his family celebrated his successful court appeal against deportation in a press conference beamed around the world. His mother denounced the “torture” her son had faced at the hands of Australian border officials while his father hailed the court victory as a win for supporters of “free speech and free behaviour”.