Australia will not immediately deport tennis world number one Novak Djokovic as the star remained in immigration detention, a government lawyer has told a court hearing.
At a hearing on Thursday, representatives for the Serb and for the Minister for Immigration reached agreement that no move would be made to deport the 20-time major winner before Monday’s hearing in a Federal court.
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State lawyer Christopher Tran said Australia did not plan to deport him before the final court hearing.
Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly said there was a delay in receiving the application for a review of the visa decisions and the temporary ban on Djokovic’s deportation.
Australia cancelled Djokovic’s visa and denied entry upon his arrival earlier, the country’s border agency announced, saying the sportsman “failed to provide appropriate evidence” to meet entry requirements.
The Serb had obtained a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination in order to play in the Australian Open, which starts in less than two weeks.
Djokovic was taken from Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport to the Park Hotel, a government detention hotel notorious for several coronavirus outbreaks, pending his removal.
“Rules are rules.”
Tennis star Novak Djokovic faces deportation from Australia after his visa was cancelled for ‘failing to provide’ necessary evidence for vaccine exemption.
— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) January 6, 2022
Judge Kelly said he was open to Djokovic giving evidence remotely from immigration detention. He also warned he would not be swayed by a Tennis Australia preference that the matter be resolved by Tuesday.
“If I can say with the respect necessary, the tail won’t be wagging the dog here,” he said.
Nick Wood, who is representing Djokovic, said he was available to discuss his client’s plight with authorities, noting that solving the visa issue was critical.
“As I sit here, the absence of a visa, if the cancellation decision is valid, is an insuperable obstacle to Mr Djokovic competing in the tournament,” Wood said.
Earlier on Thursday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Djokovic’s visa had been cancelled on social media.
“Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant,” he said on Twitter.
‘Taken for fools’
The Victorian state government has mandated that all players, staff and fans attending the Australian Open must be fully vaccinated unless there is a genuine reason why an exemption should be granted.
The decision to award Djokovic a medical exemption prompted an outcry on social media and criticism from other sportspeople, medical professionals and politicians.
Following the announcement, former Australian Rules player Kevin Bartlett tweeted that Australians “have been taken for fools”.
Another former player, Corey McKernan, tweeted: “People with loved ones who are dying/some needing urgent treatment cannot get into their own states. You tell people they can’t go to Coles or a cafe without being vaxxed but if you’re world number one you get a pass?”
Many Australians, and particularly those in Melbourne which hosts the tournament, have been subjected to a series of lengthy lockdowns over the past two years.
Federal and state government heavily pushed the importance of vaccinations. As a result, 90 percent of people over 16 have been double dosed and a booster programme is rolling out.
“It sends an appalling message to millions seeking to reduce #COVID19Aus risk to themselves & others. #Vaccination shows respect, Novak,” tweeted Stephen Parnis, a former vice-president of the Australian Medical Association.
“I don’t care how good a tennis player he is. If he’s refusing to get vaccinated, he shouldn’t be allowed in.”