About tennis player Novak Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against the coronavirus, on Friday asked an Australian court to suspend his deportation ahead of the Australian Open, after the government canceled his visa for a second time due to Covid-19 regulations for entry into the country.
The lawyers of Djokovic filed an injunction overnight, less than three hours after Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used discretionary powers to revoke the athlete’s visa.
The world’s No. 1 tennis player, who is seeking his record 21st Grand Slam tournament title, was told upon arrival in Australia on January 5 that his visa, granted on the basis of medically waiving the requirements for visitors were vaccinated against Covid-19, was invalid.
He spent several days in detention before the decision was overturned on procedural grounds. According to its lawyers, the government said that Djokovic will not be returned to detention.
The Age newspaper reported that the 34-year-old Serb was summoned to appear before immigration officials on Saturday.
“Today I exercised my power under Section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr. Novak Djokovic for reasons of health and good order, based on the public interest,” Hawke said in a statement.
Under this part of the law, Djokovic would not be able to obtain a visa to Australia for three years, except in compelling circumstances.
The tennis player’s legal team said Hawke argued that allowing Djokovic would stimulate the “anti-vaccine” feeling.
The controversy has intensified a global debate over the rights of the unvaccinated against Covid and has become a thorny political issue for Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he campaigns for an election due in May.
While the Morrison government has gained domestic support for its tough stance on border security during the pandemic, it has not escaped criticism for its seemingly inconsistent handling of the US visa application. Djokovic
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly hope that the outcome of those sacrifices will be protected,” Morrison said in a note.
“This is what the minister is doing in taking this action today. Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe,” he said, adding that he would not comment further in light of expected legal proceedings.
Djokovic, reigning Australian Open champion, was included in the draw for the tournament as the top seed and was due to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic on his debut next week.
Looking relaxed, he had practiced his serve and returned with his entourage to an empty court in Melbourne Park earlier on Friday, resting occasionally to wipe the sweat from his face.
Hawke said he had carefully considered information from Djokovic and the Australian authorities, adding that the government was “firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic”.
Australia has gone through some of the strictest lockdowns in the world to contain the pandemic, has a 90% vaccination rate among adults and has seen an outbreak of the Omicron variant of the coronavirus trigger nearly 1 million cases in the past two weeks.
Reference: CNN Brasil
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