Tennis star Djokovic back in immigration detention as deportation battle continues

Novak Djokovic was reported to have returned to immigration detention on Saturday after his legal challenge to avoid deportation from Australia for not being vaccinated against COVID-19 was transferred to three judges in a higher court.

A federal court hearing was scheduled for Sunday, a day before the top-ranked men’s tennis player and nine-time Australian Open champion began defending his title at the first major tennis tournament of the year.

Police closed a lane behind the building where Djokovic’s lawyers are housed, and two cars left the building on Saturday afternoon local time. In a TV clip, Djokovic was seen wearing a face mask in the back of a car near an immigration detention hotel.

For the latest headlines, follow our Google News channel online or via the app.

The Australian Associated Press reported that Djokovic is back in detention. He spent four nights locked up in a hotel near downtown Melbourne before being released last Monday when he won a procedural appeal against the revocation of his first entry visa.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawk on Friday blocked the 34-year-old’s visa, which was originally revoked when he landed at Melbourne airport on January 5.

Deportation from Australia can result in a three-year ban on returning to the country, although this can be waived, depending on the circumstances.

Djokovic admitted that his travel permit was incorrect as he failed to indicate that he had been to several countries in the two weeks prior to his arrival in Australia.

But incorrect travel information is not the reason Hook decided that deporting Djokovic was in the public interest.

His lawyers filed documents in court on Saturday that revealed Hook stated that “some view Djokovic as a mascot of a community of anti-vaccination sentiment.”

Australia is one of the most vaccinated populations in the world, with 89 percent of people aged 16 or older fully vaccinated against COVID-19.

But the minister said Djokovic’s presence in Australia could pose a risk to the health and safety of the Australian public. The minister said his presence “could backfire on vaccination efforts by others in Australia”.

For more coronavirus news, visit our dedicated page.

The Department of Health advised that Djokovic had a “low” risk of transmitting COVID-19 and a “very low” risk of transmitting the disease at the Australian Open.

The minister cited comments made by Djokovic in April 2020, before the COVID-19 vaccine was available, as “opposing vaccination”.

Djokovic had “previously stated that he did not want someone to force him to take a vaccine” to compete in tournaments.
In the reasons for the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa, the minister wrote that the evidence “shows that he publicly expressed anti-vaccination sentiments”.

Djokovic’s lawyers argue that the minister did not cite any evidence that Djokovic’s presence in Australia could “reinforce anti-vaccination sentiment”.

Djokovic will be allowed out of his hotel reservation on Sunday to visit his lawyers’ offices for a video court session.

On Saturday, Chief Justice James Olsop announced that he will hear the case with Judges David O’Callaghan and Anthony Pisanko.

The decision to hear three appeals judges rather than one raises the case’s importance from a judicial perspective and potentially gives Djokovic an advantage.

All three are seen as experienced judges more likely to find a minister wrong than their younger colleagues.

O’Callaghan had earlier suggested that there be a full seat for the case. A full substitute is three or five judges.

The full court means that any ruling will be less subject to appeal. The only avenue for appeal is to the Supreme Court and there will be no guarantee that that court will even agree to hear such an appeal.

Djokovic’s attorney Paul Holdenson opted for a full seat while Hook’s attorney Stephen Lloyd preferred a single judge.

“There is nothing special about reasons,” Lloyd argued, referring to Djokovic’s argument that Hooke made an irrational decision based on a lack of evidence.

“It’s not new from a legal point of view and we’re saying there is no justification for breaking out of the ordinary” by appointing three judges, Lloyd added.

Legal observers suspect that Lloyd wanted to keep the option open to another appeal to the federal court because he believed the minister could bring a stronger case without rushing to reach a ruling before Monday.

Djokovic has won the last three tournaments in Australia, part of his total of 20 Grand Slam tournaments. He is linked to Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer most often by a man in history.

In a social media post on Wednesday that represented his most comprehensive public comment yet on the episode, Djokovic blamed his agent for checking the wrong box on the form, calling it a “human error and certainly not intentional.”

In the same post, Djokovic said he went ahead to give an interview and take a photo with a French newspaper in Serbia despite knowing he tested positive for COVID-19 two days ago. Djokovic has been trying to use what he says is a positive test taken on December 16 to justify a medical exemption that would allow him to get around the vaccine demand on the grounds that he already has COVID-19.

In revoking Djokovic’s visa, Hook said Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government was “strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Morrison himself welcomed Djokovic’s pending transfer. The incident has struck a nerve in Australia, particularly in Victoria, where locals have gone through hundreds of days of lockdown during the worst of the pandemic.

Australia is facing a massive rise in virus cases driven by a highly transmissible omicron variant.

On Friday, the country reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria.

Although many infected people do not get sick as in previous outbreaks, the increase still puts severe strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It also disrupted workplaces and supply chains.

Djokovic’s supporters in Serbia resent the cancellation of visas. Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday accused the Australian government of “harassing” and “mistreating” Djokovic and asked if it was merely trying to score political points ahead of the upcoming elections.

“Why didn’t you return him right away, or tell him it was impossible to get a visa?” Vucic asked Australian authorities in an address on social media. “Why do you bother him and why do you not only abuse him, but his family and a whole free and proud nation.”

Everyone in the Australian Open is required to be vaccinated, including players, support teams and spectators.

According to the Grand Slam rules, if Djokovic is forced to withdraw from the tournament before the first-day playing order is announced, No. 5 Andrei Rublev will move to Djokovic’s place in parentheses.

If Djokovic withdraws from the tournament after Monday’s schedule is released, he will be replaced on the court by what is known as a “lucky loser” – a player who lost in the qualifying tournament but entered the main draw due to another player’s exit before the competition began.

And if Djokovic plays in one or more matches and is then told that he can no longer participate in the tournament, his next opponent will simply advance to the next round and there will be no substitute.

Read more:

Djokovic admits mishandling COVID-19 situation as criticism mounts

Saudi Arabia reported 5,281 cases of coronavirus in 24 hours, and two new deaths

Downing Street apologizes to the Queen over COVID-19 lockdown parties

Leave a Comment