Novak Djokovic in limbo as he fights deportation from Australia

Locked in a dispute over his COVID-19 vaccination standing, Novak Djokovic was confined to an immigration detention lodge in Australia on Thursday because the No. 1 males’s tennis participant on the planet awaited a court docket ruling on whether or not he can compete within the Australian Open later this month.

Djokovic, a vocal skeptic of vaccines, had traveled to Australia after Victoria state authorities granted him a medical exemption to the nation’s strict vaccination necessities. However when he arrived late Wednesday, the Australian Border Drive rejected his exemption as invalid and barred him from coming into the nation.

A court docket listening to on his bid to stave off deportation was set for Monday, every week earlier than the season’s first main tennis event is about to start. The defending Australian Open champion is ready it out in Melbourne at a safe lodge utilized by immigration officers to deal with asylum seekers and refugees.

Djokovic is hoping to overhaul rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and win his twenty first Grand Slam singles title, probably the most by any participant in males’s tennis. Djokovic’s securing of an exemption in order that he may play triggered an uproar and allegations of particular remedy in Australia, the place individuals spent months in lockdown and endured harsh journey restrictions on the peak of the pandemic.

A protestor holds indicators exterior Park Resort, the place Serbian tennis participant Novak Djokovic is believed to be dwelling, in Melbourne (Supply: Reuters)

After his long-haul flight, the tennis star spent the evening on the airport making an attempt to persuade authorities he had the required documentation, to no avail. “The rule may be very clear,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison mentioned. “It’s worthwhile to have a medical exemption. He didn’t have a sound medical exemption. We make the decision on the border, and that’s the place it’s enforced.”

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Well being Minister Greg Hunt mentioned the athlete’s visa was cancelled after border officers reviewed Djokovic’s medical exemption and checked out “the integrity and the proof behind it.” The grounds on which he was granted an exemption weren’t instantly disclosed.

Whereas Djokovic has steadfastly refused to say whether or not he has gotten any photographs in opposition to the coronavirus, he has spoken out in opposition to vaccines, and it’s extensively presumed he wouldn’t have sought an exemption if he had been vaccinated. A federal decide will take up the case subsequent week. A lawyer for the federal government agreed the nine-time Australian Open champion shouldn’t be deported earlier than then.

“I really feel horrible since yesterday that they’re preserving him as a prisoner. It’s not honest. It’s not human. I hope that he’ll win,“ Djokovic’s mom, Dijana, mentioned after talking with him briefly by phone from Belgrade. She added: “Horrible, horrible lodging. It’s just a few small immigration lodge, if it’s a lodge in any respect.“ Australia’s house affairs minister, Karen Andrews, mentioned Friday that Djokovic may fly overseas on the primary out there flight.

“Can I say, firstly, that Mr. Djokovic will not be being held captive in Australia. He’s free to go away at any time that he chooses to take action,” Andrews mentioned.

“And Border Drive will really facilitate that.” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has additionally spoken to Djokovic and mentioned his authorities requested that the athlete be allowed to maneuver to a home he has rented and “to not be in that notorious lodge.” He mentioned Djokovic has been handled otherwise from different gamers.

“I’m afraid that this overkill will proceed,“ Vucic mentioned. “When you’ll be able to’t beat somebody, then you definately do such issues.” Border Drive investigations have been persevering with into two different individuals who arrived in Australia for the tennis event, Andrews mentioned. Australia’s prime minister mentioned the onus is on the traveler to have the right documentation on arrival, and he rejected any suggestion that Djokovic was being singled out.

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“One of many issues the Border Drive does is act on intelligence to direct their consideration to potential arrivals,” he mentioned. “Once you get individuals making public statements about what they are saying they’ve, they usually’re going to do, they draw important consideration to themselves.” Anybody who does that, he mentioned, “whether or not they’re a celeb, a politician, a tennis participant . . . they’ll count on to be requested questions greater than others earlier than you come.”

Novak Djokovic Protestors collect exterior an immigration detention lodge the place Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is believed to remain, in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. Locked in a dispute over his COVID-19 vaccination standing, Djokovic was confined to the immigration detention lodge in Australia on Thursday because the No. 1 males’s tennis participant on the planet awaited a court docket ruling on whether or not he can compete within the Australian Open later this month. (AP Photograph/Hamish Blair)

The medical-exemption purposes from gamers, their groups and tennis officers have been vetted by two impartial panels of consultants. An authorised exemption allowed entry to the event. Acceptable causes for an exemption embrace main well being circumstances and severe reactions to a earlier dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

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A COVID-19 an infection inside the earlier six months has additionally been extensively reported to be grounds for an exemption, however that’s the place interpretations appeared to vary between the federal stage, which controls the border, and tennis and state well being officers. Former Australian Open event director and Davis Cup participant Paul McNamee mentioned the remedy of Djokovic was unfair.

“The man performed by the foundations, he obtained his visa, he arrives, he’s a nine-time champion and whether or not individuals prefer it or not he’s entitled to honest play,” McNamee instructed the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “There’s little doubt there’s some disconnect between the state and the federal authorities. “I hate to assume politics are concerned however it feels that approach.” Djokovic examined optimistic for the coronavirus in June 2020 after he performed in a sequence of exhibition matches that he organized with out social distancing amid the pandemic.

Critics questioned what grounds Djokovic may have for the exemption, whereas supporters argued he has a proper to privateness and freedom of alternative. Many Australians who’ve struggled to acquire COVID-19 assessments or have been compelled into isolation noticed a double normal. Rigidity has grown amid one other surge of COVID-19 within the nation. Victoria state recorded six deaths and practically 22,000 new circumstances on Thursday, the most important one-day soar within the caseload for the reason that pandemic started. Australian Open event director Craig Tiley has defended the “utterly reliable software and course of” and insisted there was no particular remedy for Djokovic.

Twenty-six individuals linked with the event utilized for a medical exemption and, Tiley mentioned, solely a “handful” have been granted. None of these have been publicly recognized.

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