Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa was canceled for a second time Friday by the country’s Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, a decision that comes days after a federal court overturned the Australian Border Force’s initial decision to cancel the unvaccinated tennis star’s visa.
Announcing the cancelation, Hawke said the decision was based on health and good order grounds and “in the public interest to do so.”
Hawke said he carefully considered information provided by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Djokovic, before making the decision.
Hawked added that the Morrison Government is “firmly committed” to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly during the pandemic.
While Djokovic will be able to challenge this decision in court, such a case would be more difficult to win as the powers held by the immigration minister regarding visa cancelations are very broad.
Under section 133C(3) of the country’s Migration Act, a minister may cancel an individual’s visa if the holder poses a risk to “the health, safety or good order” of Australians among other things.
What We Don’t Know
It’s unclear how the decision — or Djokovic’s likely legal challenge — will impact the Australian Open, which is set to begin Monday. Djokovic, who has won the tournament nine times, is the competition’s top-seeded contender and a victory would break his tie with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal for the most Grand Slam tournament titles, giving him 21.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa was taken on “health and good order grounds” and added: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected. This is what the Minister (Hawke) is doing in taking this action today. Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, prior to COVID and now during the pandemic.”
Earlier this week, former Australian tennis player and member of parliament John Alexander wrote in a Facebook post that Djokovic appeared to have complied with all the health entry requirements and did not present an unreasonable risk to Australia. He wrote: “The Minister’s ‘personal powers to cancel visas’ are designed to prevent criminals otherwise walking our streets, or to prevent a contagious person otherwise walking our streets; they’re not designed to assist in dealing with a potential political problem of the day.”
Friday’s visa revocation follows a lengthy standoff between Australian officials and Djokovic, a longtime critic of Covid-19 vaccines. The Serbian tennis star was granted a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated, but after landing in Melbourne last week, border authorities detained him at the airport for hours and eventually revoked his visa, deciding he didn’t meet Australia’s strict vaccine requirements for foreign travelers. The cancelation of the visa was challenged by Djokovic’s legal team as the player was placed in immigration detention in a Melbourne hotel. On Monday, the Melbourne Federal Circuit Court ruled in favor of Novak Djokovic and ordered the Australian government to reinstate Djokovic’s visa. In his ruling, the judge said that the cancelation of the visa was “unreasonable” as Djokovic was denied adequate time to consult others on the questions raised by the border authorities.
On Wednesday, Djokovic admitted that he participated in an interview and photoshoot in December, despite being aware that he was Covid positive. In a statement issued on Instagram, the 20-time grand slam winner apologized for making an “error of judgement.” In his statement Djokovic attempted to clarify the circumstances around his infection—which he used gain a vaccine exemption—after questions were raised about the veracity of his Covid-19 test. Djokovic also acknowledged a false claim made on his Australian travel declaration form and calling it a human error.
‘Error Of Judgement’: Djokovic Admits To Doing Interview While Being Covid Positive, Fresh Questions Raised About His Test (Forbes)
Novak Djokovic Timeline: His Positive Covid Test, In-Person Events And Travel Documents Ahead Of Australian Open (Forbes)
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