Australia has agreed to delay Novak Djokovic’s deportation after the player’s legal team launched a late-night fight for him to stay in the country after his visa was canceled for a second time.
Immigration officials said earlier today the world tennis No. 1, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19, may pose a risk to the community, dashing his hopes of competing for his 21st grand slam.
But his lawyers are arguing in court that Immigration Minister Alex Hawke had cancelled Djokovic’s visa on the grounds his presence in the country might excite anti-vaccination sentiment, and not because he was unvaccinated. The reasons for Hawke’s decision have not yet been published.
The minister’s decision was ‘patently irrational’, Djokovic’s lawyer Nicholas Wood told the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia, adding that they wanted the challenge to the player’s visa revocation to be heard on Sunday, so that he could play in the Australian Open on Monday should the challenge be successful.
Despite the request, a court hearing in front of Judge Anthony Kelly, who overturned the original cancellation of Djokovic’s visa, was convened for Monday evening.
Djokovic, the Australian Open defending champion, was included in the tournament’s draw on Thursday as the top seed and was due to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic for his opening match, either on Monday or Tuesday.
The visa cancellation could mean the 34-year-old would be barred from receiving a new Australian visa for three years, except in compelling circumstances that affect Australia’s interest – potentially ruling him out of further Australian Opens during those three years.
Mr. Wood requested the injunction against the Serbian’s removal and appealed for him to be allowed to stay out of immigration detention as the case proceeds. ‘We are very concerned about time,’ Wood told the emergency hearing. The government told Djokovic’s lawyers it had no intention of detaining him tonight.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said Friday his government cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa to protect Australia’s hard-won gains against the Covid-19 pandemic.
‘Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,’ Morrison said in a statement.
‘I note the Minister for Immigration’s decision in relation to Mr. Novak Djokovic’s visa.
‘I understand that following careful consideration, action has been taken by the Minister to cancel Mr. Djokovic’s visa held on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,’ Morrison said.
‘This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods.’
Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke used discretionary powers to again cancel Djokovic’s visa after a court quashed an earlier revocation and released him from immigration detention on Monday.
‘Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr. Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,’ Hawke said in a statement.
‘This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds.
‘In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force, and Mr. Djokovic.
‘The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic.’