BSS-ENhrch_cat_news-33-5
BSS
  14 Jan 2022, 16:27

Australia cancels Djokovic visa again

 MELBOURNE, Jan 14, 2022 (BSS/AFP) - Australia has cancelled Novak Djokovic's

visa for a second time in a sensational new attempt to deport the
unvaccinated tennis superstar Friday.

   The country's conservative government, defeated once in the courts,
invoked extraordinary executive powers to again rip up the 34-year-old
Serbian's visa on public interest grounds.

   The move comes just three days before the Australian Open starts, putting
Djokovic's dream of a record 21st Grand Slam in serious doubt.

   Djokovic, an avowed Covid-19 vaccine sceptic, is the tournament's top seed
and had been practising on the Melbourne Park courts just before Immigration
Minister Alex Hawke's bombshell decision was announced.

   The government is "firmly committed to protecting Australia's borders,
particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic," Hawke said in a
statement.

   He cited "health and good order grounds" for the decision and said "it was
in the public interest to do so".

   Prime Minister Scott Morrison backed the decision: "Australians have made
many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of
those sacrifices to be protected."

   The visa cancellation effectively means the world's number one tennis
player would be barred from obtaining a new Australian visa for three years,
except under exceptional circumstances.

   But the Australian judge who blocked Djokovic's deportation first time
round, scheduled an emergency hearing late Friday, indicating the tennis ace
will again challenge the decision.

   Top immigration lawyer, Christopher Levingston, said Djokovic could apply
to the Federal Court for an injunction to stay the minister's decision.

   "Djokovic is extremely well-resourced and has a competent team around him.
He can either stay and fight or he can leave," Levingston said.

   The three-year bar on a new Australian visa for Djokovic could be waived
if it was deemed to be in the public interest, he said.

   In Belgrade, Djokovic's compatriots reacted with shock to the news.

   "To say that a high-level sportsman like Novak is a danger to the health
of Australians is just absurd, it's a scandal," said 28-year-old local
government employee Petar Stojanovic.

   - 'All fools' -

   The megastar flew into Melbourne airport on January 5 claiming a vaccine
exemption because of a positive PCR test result on December 16.

   Border agents rejected his exemption, revoked his visa and placed him in a
notorious Melbourne detention centre where he spent four nights.

   The Australian government insists a recent infection does not qualify as a
vaccine exemption for foreign nationals trying to enter the country.

   Djokovic's top-flight legal team overturned the visa decision in the
federal circuit court on Monday because border officials at the airport had
failed to give him the agreed time to respond.

   - Like 'fools' -

   Djokovic's vaccine waiver provoked outrage among many Australians who have
endured nearly two years of some of the toughest coronavirus restrictions in
the world.

   Some tennis players say Djokovic should now be allowed to play, but not
all have been supportive.

   World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas criticised his behaviour.

   "For sure he has been playing by his own rules," Tsitsipas said in an
interview with Indian broadcaster WION.

   Nearly everyone in the Australian Open had been vaccinated, Tsitsipas
said. But others "chose to follow their own way which kind of makes the
majority look like they're all fools".

   On Wednesday, Djokovic described reports about post-infection outings
without a mask in Serbia as "misinformation".

   On the day of his claimed positive test in Serbia, he attended a ceremony
to honour him with stamps bearing his image. The following day he attended a
youth tennis event. He appeared at both apparently without a mask.

   Djokovic said in an Instagram post that he only received the PCR test
result after going to the children's tennis event on December 17.

   But he admitted that he also went ahead with an interview with French
sports daily L'Equipe on December 18.

   - 'Error of judgement' -

   "On reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should
have rescheduled this commitment," Djokovic said.

   The journalist who carried out the L'Equipe interview, Franck Ramella,
said he had been unaware at the time of the interview that Djokovic was
Covid-positive.

   The tennis star also admitted to a mistake on his Australian travel
declaration, in which a box was ticked indicating that he had not, or would
not, travel in the 14 days before flying to Melbourne.

   In fact, social media posts and reports show he flew from Serbia to Spain
during that period.

   Djokovic blamed his support team for this. "My agent sincerely apologises
for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box," he said.

   As Covid-related hospitalisations rise in Melbourne, the Victorian state
government said Thursday it would cap capacity at the Australian Open at 50
percent.

  • Latest News
  • Most View
Beta Version