On Friday, the Australian government canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa for the second time, claiming the tennis world number one. 1, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, may pose a risk to the community.
The decision raises the prospect of a second legal battle for the Serbian tennis star to be allowed to stay and try to clinch a record 21st major tennis title at the Australian Open, but time is running out with the tournament which starts Monday.
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke exercised his discretion to revoke Djokovic’s visa after a court overturned an earlier revocation and released him from immigration detention on Monday.
“Today I exercised my authority under Section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr. Novak Djokovic for reasons of health and good order, on the grounds that ‘it was in the public interest to do so,’ Hawke said in a statement.
The government “is strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hawke said.
He said he had “carefully reviewed” information from Djokovic, the Home Office 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 obtain a visa to come to Australia for three years, except in compelling circumstances which affect the interests from Australia.
Djokovic, the defending Australian Open champion, was included in Thursday’s draw as the top seed and was set to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in his opener, likely on Monday or Tuesday.
The saga has intensified the global debate over vaccine rights of choice, raised questions about Australia’s failed handling of Djokovic’s visa and has become a sticky issue for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he campaigns for his re-election.
The vaccine skeptical tennis star fueled widespread anger in Australia when he announced last week that he was traveling to Melbourne for the Australian Open with a medical exemption from requirements for visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
Australia has suffered some of the longest lockdowns in the world, has a 90 per cent vaccination rate among adults and has seen a runaway Omicron outbreak bring nearly a million cases in the past two weeks.
Upon his arrival, Australian Border Force officials decided his exemption was not valid and he was held alongside asylum seekers in a migrant detention hotel for several days.
On Monday, a court allowed him to stay on the grounds that officials had been “unreasonable” in the way they handled his interview in a seven-hour process in the middle of the night.
Djokovic’s cause was not helped by an error in his entry statement relating to foreign travel in the previous two weeks, which he attributed to his agent. He also admitted that he should have postponed an interview and a photo shoot for a French newspaper on December 18 when he was infected with COVID-19.
An online poll by media group News Corp found 83 per cent in favor of the government trying to deport the tennis star.
“Absolutely he should go. He didn’t do the right thing and he’s a little cheeky about it,” said Venus Virgin Tomarz, 45, who lives in Melbourne.
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