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Australia cancels Novak Djokovic’s visa for second time

Australia cancelled Novak Djokovic's visa for a second time. Source: Reuters

MELBOURNE: Australia cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time on Friday, saying the world tennis number one who has not been vaccinated for COVID-19 may pose a health risk, effectively ending his bid for a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open.

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.

Under the section of the Migration Act used to cancel the visa, Djokovic would not be able to secure a visa to Australia for three years, except in compelling circumstances that affect Australia’s interest.

The decision to again cancel his visa over COVID-19 entry regulations raises the prospect of a possible second court battle by the Serbian tennis star to be allowed to stay and play in the Australian Open starting Monday.

The controversy has intensified a global debate over the rights of the unvaccinated and become a political issue for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he campaigns for elections due by May.

Morrison’s government has won support at home for its tough stance on border security during the pandemic but has not escaped criticism over the botched handling of Djokovic’s visa.

Djokovic, 34, the Australian Open defending champion, was included in Thursday’s draw as top seed and was due to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic for his opening match next week.

Djokovic, a vaccine sceptic, fuelled widespread anger in Australia when he announced last week he was heading to Melbourne with a medical exemption to requirements for visitors to be inoculated against COVID-19.

On arrival, Australian Border Force decided his exemption was invalid and put him in an immigration detention hotel alongside asylum-seekers for several days.

The government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic”, Hawke said, adding he had considered information from Djokovic, the Department of Home Affairs and the Australian Border Force.

Australia has endured some of the world’s longest lockdowns, has a 90% vaccination rate among adults, and has seen a runaway Omicron outbreak bring nearly a million cases in the last two weeks.

Anti-vaxxers have hailed him as a hero while Djokovic’s family and the Serbian government have portrayed him as a victim of persecution. Djokovic’s cause was not helped by a wrong entry declaration, where a box was ticked stating he had not travelled abroad in the two weeks before leaving for Australia. In fact, he had travelled between Spain and Serbia.

Djokovic blamed the error on his agent and acknowledged he also should not have done an interview and photoshoot for a French newspaper on December 18 while infected with COVID-19.


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