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Australian Open: Novak Djokovic set to be deported after losing appeal

Melbourne, January 16: Novak Djokovic's hopes of participating in the Australian Open 2022 came to an end on Sunday (January 16) after a court dismissed the world number one tennis star's appeal against a deportation order.

Three Federal Court judges upheld a decision made on Friday (January 14) by the immigration minister to cancel the 34-year-old Serb's visa on public interest grounds.

The decision likely means that Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, will remain in detention in Melbourne until he is deported.

A deportation order usually also includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia.

The minister cancelled the visa on the grounds that Djokovic's presence in Australia may be a risk to the health and "good order" of the Australian public and "may be counterproductive to efforts at vaccination by others in Australia."

A Federal Court of Australia procedural hearing was held on Sunday, where lawyers representing Djokovic and Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke presented their cases after the Serbian's visa was cancelled on Friday (January 14).

Novak Djokovic detained again at Melbourne, Australian Open fate to be decided on SundayNovak Djokovic detained again at Melbourne, Australian Open fate to be decided on Sunday

Earlier on Sunday (January 16), after several hours of both sides arguing their case, chief Justice James Allsop adjourned and said the court may reconvene "this afternoon or perhaps tomorrow morning".

The Australian Open announced Monday's schedule on Sunday afternoon, with Djokovic's first-round match against Miomir Kecmanovic listed as the second in the night session (from 7pm AEDT) on centre court. Now that match will see Djokovic's replacement face Kecmanovic.

At the Sunday hearing, the Immigration Minister's submissions on why Djokovic's visa was cancelled were detailed, pointing to the argument that his presence in Australia may foster sentiment against coronavirus vaccinations.

Djokovic's lawyers argued against the submission, slamming the Minister as "plainly wrong" for assumptions that he was perceived as an anti-vax figurehead and claiming they misrepresented his views on vaccines based on media reports.

Instead, they argued deporting Djokovic could stir up more anti-vaccination sentiment than letting him stay and insisted the Minister did not have enough evidence to make the counter judgement.

The Minister's lawyers reiterated the view that Djokovic's presence would inflame anti-vaccination sentiment and argued that Hawke had considered the outcomes from both decisions.

Mr Stephen Lloyd, representing the Minister, said: "The minister took the view that his presence in Australia could encourage people to emulate [disregard for the rules]."

Mr Lloyd pointed to recent images of Djokovic posing for photos in Serbia after testing positive to COVID-19 last month, when he added: "The applicant has some recent history of ignoring COVID safety measures. Even when he was infected he undertook an interview and a photoshoot including taking his mask off."

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Story first published: Sunday, January 16, 2022, 11:20 [IST]
Other articles published on Jan 16, 2022