Novak Djokovic, the Serbian tennis star, had his visa revoked for a second time by Australian authorities on Friday, the dizzying latest volley in a never-ending drama over his refusal to be vaccinated against Covid-19.
Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement that he was canceling Djokovic’s visa on grounds of “health and good order”, adding that it was in the public interest to do so.
Hawke took action four days after Djokovic won a court victory that freed him from immigration detention, where he had been held since arriving at Melbourne Airport last week.
The minister gave no further details on his decision to revoke the visa, other than to say that the Australian government was committed to protecting the country’s borders during the pandemic.
It was unclear what would happen next, with the start of the Australian Open in three days. Djokovic could return to court to seek the reversal of the decision, but legal experts have said he may have little chance of success after winning his first round in court on narrow procedural grounds.
Mary Crock, a law professor at the University of Sydney, said it would be “very, very difficult” for Djokovic to win an appeal. “The rules of natural justice and procedure do not apply,” she said. Thus, the only way for him to appeal would be to prove that there is no public interest reason on which the visa could have been revoked.
A federal investigation led by Hawke revealed that Djokovic had provided false information on documents he gave to border authorities when he tried to enter the country last week.
These documents did not indicate that Djokovic, who lives in Monte Carlo, had traveled between Serbia and Spain in the 14 days before arriving in Australia.
In a social media post On Wednesday, Djokovic acknowledged the inaccuracies and answered questions about his movements in the days before and after he tested positive for coronavirus on December 16. This test result earned him an exemption from Victorian health officials to play in Australia. Open.
Djokovic’s statement reads both as a desperate plea for clemency and as an explanation for the irresponsible behavior of a star athlete unaccustomed to being held accountable. He said a member of his support team made a “human error” in filling out his paperwork. He also said he made the wrong decision to have an in-person interview and photo shoot with a French sports publication after testing positive for coronavirus.
Franck Ramella, a journalist with the French sports newspaper L’Equipe, wrote this week that when he conducted the interview on December 18, he was unaware that Djokovic had just tested positive for coronavirus.
Djokovic said he was not yet aware he had tested positive when he attended a tennis event on December 17 in Belgrade, the Serbian capital, where he presented awards to children. But the record of his positive test shows he took the test at 1.05pm on December 16 and received the positive result seven hours later.
“I just want the opportunity to face the best players in the world and play in front of one of the best audiences in the world,” Djokovic said in the post.
Earlier this week it emerged that Djokovic would be able to pull it off, although he would most likely be the only unvaccinated player in the men’s tournament. On Thursday, he was installed as the No. 1 seed in the men’s category.
On Monday afternoon, a judge ruled that Djokovic was treated unfairly when he arrived late January 5 at a Melbourne airport, where he was interrogated for hours and denied the promised chance to contact his lawyers or Australian Open officials.
Judge ordered Djokovic’s visa reinstated, releasing him from the hotel for refugees and asylum seekers where he had been held for five days and clearing the way for him to compete for a record 21st Grand Slam tournament title .
Australian tennis officials had granted Djokovic the vaccination waiver, in consultation with state officials, to compete in the tournament, which begins in Melbourne on Monday. But border authorities canceled his visa with the backing of Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying Djokovic remained subject to the requirement that anyone entering the country be fully vaccinated.
The court ruling did not end the case, but instead focused on Djokovic’s supporting documents, the legitimacy of his coronavirus test and basic questions about what Djokovic knew about his diagnosis and when. he knew it.
Legally, Hawke, the immigration minister, can cancel a visa on moral grounds or if he finds the records to be false, or if he thinks the visa recipient poses a health or safety risk. . Hawke made his decision as Australia are in the midst of their worst ever fight against coronavirus.
Mike Ives contributed report.