16 Jan, 2022 06:59
Djokovic to be deported from Australia, court rules
The tennis star has lost his appeal to remain in Australia following the government’s decision to cancel his visa
Novak Djokovic practices on Margaret Court Arena ahead of the Australian Open tennis championship in Melbourne, Australia, Thursday, Jan. 13, 2022. © AP
A court has affirmed the decision by the Australian authorities to cancel Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time. The Serbian star will now be deported, meaning he is unable to defend his Grand Slam title in Melbourne.
Djokovic, 34, had been fighting for a second time to stay in the country, having seen the initial cancelation of his visa overturned by a Melbourne circuit court judge on Monday.
The government disputed that decision after the personal intervention of Immigration Minister Alex Hawke in the case, paving the way for Sunday’s hearing in front of a panel of three judges at a federal court.
Chief Justice James Allsop said the court’s ruling to uphold the immigration minister’s decision to revoke Djokovic's visa was unanimous.
Allsop said the full bench of the federal court was not being asked to decide on the merits of the minister’s decision, but instead to review the legality of that decision.
“These grounds focus on whether the decision was for different reasons irrational or legally unreasonable. It is no part of the function of the court to decide upon the merits or wisdom of the decision,” said Allsop.
The government’s case included the argument that by allowing the unvaccinated Djokovic to remain in the country, it would incite anti-vaccination sentiments among the population.
“Rightly or wrongly he’s perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view. And his presence here seems to contribute to that and could lead to more people becoming anti-vaxxers,” government lawyer Stephen Lloyd had said.
Djokovic’s lawyers disputed that he was in any way a “risk” to Australia’s public health and order, asserting that a decision to remove him from the country could trigger more anti-vaccine sentiment than allowing him to remain and compete in Melbourne.
Djokovic had arrived in Australia on January 5 with a medical exemption to compete at this month’s Grand Slam granted by Tennis Australia and Victoria state authorities, although that was deemed insufficient for entry by federal officials.
He was detained after his arrival and housed at a notorious immigration facility, before being freed by Melbourne judge Anthony Kelly on Monday.
That allowed Djokovic to practice throughout the week, before Friday's decision by Minister Hawke saw him return to detention ahead of Sunday’s hearing.
Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open champion and has won the tournament for the past three years in a row.
He would have been bidding for an outright record of 21 Grand Slam titles, moving him ahead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal in the all-time stakes.
With Sunday’s ruling, Djokovic is facing a possible three-year ban from entering Australia.