Djokovic released from immigration detention; Government may re-cancel his visa
Tennis star Novak Djokovic has been released from immigration detention after his lawyers won the court case. Djokovic had arrived in Australia last week to compete at the Australian Open, starting January 17. However, his visa was canceled after he failed to meet the requirements for an exemption to COVID-19 vaccination rules. Notably, Australia's immigration minister may consider re-canceling Djokovic's visa.
Why does this story matter?
- The Victoria government had mandated that only fully vaccinated players can participate at the Australian Open.
- Djokovic had been granted a medical exemption by two independent medical panels. One of them was appointed by the Victorian Department of Health.
- However, Djokovic was denied entry after he reached Australia.
- He was sent to immigration detention before his lawyers filed an appeal.
What were the arguments?
As per BBC Sport, the lawyers of Djokovic argued that border officials didn't notify the government's decision to cancel his visa. However, the government stated that Djokovic had already contracted COVID-19 in the past, which made him ineligible for any exemption. As per the order of the Federal Circuit Court (on Monday), the government will pay Djokovic's legal costs.
Djokovic's visa could be canceled again
Although the court ruled in favor of Djokovic, government lawyer Chris Tran informed that the immigration minister may consider re-canceling Djokovic's visa. As per BBC Sport, Australia's immigration minister has "exceptional powers and discretion to cancel visas for whatever reason. Mr. Tran did not specify the grounds under which Djokovic's visa could be canceled again". Moreover, Australia could ban Djokovic for three years.
Djokovic was denied entry at the airport
Last week, Djokovic was denied entry at Melbourne airport. He was sent to an immigration detention hotel eventually. The the Australian Border Force (ABF) said Djokovic "failed to provide appropriate evidence". "Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa canceled will be detained and removed from Australia," said the border officials.
Australian PM Scott Morrison had supported the government's decision
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had also supported the decision to bar Djokovic, stating "The rule is very clear. You need to have a medical exemption. He didn't have a valid medical exemption. We make the call at the border, and that's where it's enforced."
A 'giant distraction strategy', says Australia's former PM
Former Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd believes the case against Djokovic was "one giant distraction strategy when out in the real world people can't get tested". BBC reported that the COVID-19 testing services in New South Wales are struggling in the wake of rising infections. Critics argue that Morrison has used Djokovic's case to display the nation's stringent border policies.
Djokovic has won the Australian Open nine times
Djokovic has won the Australian Open most times (9) in men's singles. He has three more titles than Roy Emerson and Roger Federer (6 each). The Serbian is 82-8 at this Slam. He owns a win percentage of 91. He has a perfect record in the finals of the Australian Open (9-0). He has won a total of 20 Grand Slam titles.