Tennis star Novak Djokovic is facing deportation after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time.
The Australian government cancelled his visa on Friday, saying the world’s top-ranked men’s tennis player, unvaccinated for COVID-19, may pose a risk to the community.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used discretionary powers to again cancel Djokovic’s visa after a court quashed an earlier revocation and released him from immigration detention on Monday.
“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,” Hawke said in a statement.
The government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic”.
He said he had “carefully considered” information from Djokovic, the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force.
Under the section of the Migration Act which the minister used to exercise his power to cancel the visa, Djokovic would not be able to secure a visa to come to Australia for three years, except in compelling circumstances that affect Australia’s interest.
Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to appeal the cancellation in the Federal Circuit and Family Court as they successfully did after the first cancellation.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison welcomed Djokovic’s pending deportation, saying Australia had achieved one of the lowest pandemic death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates in the world.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” Morrison said in a statement. “This is what the minister is doing in taking this action today.”
Later on Friday, Djokovic’s lawyers went to court to prevent his deportation.
His lawyer Nick Wood requested an injunction against the Serbian’s removal and appealed for him to be allowed to stay out of immigration detention as the case proceeds.
“We are very concerned about time,” Wood told an emergency hearing three days before Djokovic tries to defend his Australian Open crown, adding that the immigration minister’s decision is “patently irrational”.
(Periodic and important reminder that Djokovic could have avoided all this rigamarole by simply getting vaccinated like 97%+ of his tennis player peers have.)
— Ben Rothenberg (@BenRothenberg) January 14, 2022
Djokovic’s exemption from a COVID-19 vaccination requirement to compete was approved by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia, the tournament organiser. That apparently allowed him to receive a visa to travel.
But the Australian Border Force rejected the exemption and cancelled his visa upon arrival in Melbourne.
He spent four nights in hotel detention before a judge on Monday overturned that decision.
On Thursday, Djokovic was been included in the Australian Open official draw despite the uncertainty over his visa status.
Djokovic also admitted knowing he had tested positive for COVID-19 when he attended a newspaper interview and photoshoot at his tennis centre in Serbia last month, admitting he made an “error of judgement” and should have immediately gone into isolation.
The decision to award him a medical exemption to travel to Melbourne to defend his Australian Open title prompted an outcry on social media and criticism from other sportspeople, medical professionals and politicians.
Australian Open organisers said that Djokovic applied for a medical exemption “which was granted following a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels of medical experts”.
However, 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.