Australia federal court unanimously upholds decision canceling Djokovic visa News
© WikiMedia (Matt Hrkac)
Australia federal court unanimously upholds decision canceling Djokovic visa

A three-judge bench of the Victoria District of the Federal Court of Australia on Sunday unanimously upheld Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision to cancel the visa of 20-time grand slam and nine-time Australian Open tennis champion Novak Djokovic, setting the stage for the tennis legend to leave Australia immediately.

The decision comes only two days after Hawke’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa, which he said was made on “health and good order grounds” and that it was in the public interest to cancel his visa.

Djokovic had traveled to Melbourne to compete in the Australian Open and was one of a small group of players who was granted a medical exemption from mandatory COVID-19 vaccination by Tennis Australia and the Victoria State Department of Health and Human Services. Revelation of this exemption itself created outrage among Australian tennis fans and the general public, as it was considered extraordinary.

Earlier this month, Djokovic was detained by the Australian Border Force, which determined that he did not meet the entry requirements for an unvaccinated traveler. His visa was promptly cancelled and he was held in Park Hotel, an immigration detention hotel, for several days. However, the Melbourne District of the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia overruled this decision on procedural grounds last week, due to the government’s failure to grant Djokovic time to contact his lawyers and tennis authorities before he was interviewed.

However, the drama did not end there and Djokovic admitted on Wednesday that he made false statements on a sworn affidavit regarding testing positive for COVID-19 in mid-December and about following the related isolation protocols. Right before and after testing positive, Djokovic allegedly attended events causing positive tests in others.

Post this revelation, Hawke canceled Djokovic’s visa and Djokovic immediately appealed to block Hawke’s decision. A three-judge bench of the federal court unanimously dismissed Djokovic’s appeal and upheld Hawke’s decision on Sunday noting that the reasons for their decision will be published at a later date.

Hawke thanked the court for upholding his decision stating:

Australia’s strong border protection policies have kept us safe during the pandemic, resulting in one of the lowest death rates, strongest economic recoveries, and highest vaccination rates in the world. Strong border protection policies are also fundamental to safe-guarding Australia’s social cohesion which continues to strengthen despite the pandemic.

Australians have made great sacrifices to get to this point and the Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting this position, as the Australian people expect…

Park Hotel in Carlton is the same detention facility where dozens of refugees have been detained for almost a decade and Djokovic’s detention at this facility this month garnered international attention to their treatment by the government of Australia. Many protestors outside the hotel and other human rights activists have criticized Djokovic and the government alike for allegedly trivializing the real struggles of refugees, while public pressure mounted to not show Djokovic any favorable treatment. For its part, Tennis Australia has also been criticized for granting Djokovic a medical exemption in the first place.

Djokovic, Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal are considered the three greatest men’s players in tennis who continue to play at well past 30 years of age and whose collective grand slam title count is at 60. A victory here at the Australian Open would have taken Djokovic past Federer and Nadal’s record of 20 grand slam titles each.

The entire episode has received a mixed reaction from tennis players and sports professionals and commentators, tennis fans and the general public, with anti-vaxxers and the Serbian public largely siding with Djokovic while the Australian public and other tennis fans and commentators mostly condemning his alleged “deceitful” and “irresponsible” behavior.

Based on current Australian immigration laws, Djokovic would be barred from returning to Australia for three years. However, Prime Minister Scott Morrison has already hinted that Djokovic may be exempted from the three-year ban under the “right circumstances.”