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Australia cancels Djokovic's visa again

AFP . Melbourne
15 Jan 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 15 Jan 2022 04:10:48
Australia cancels Djokovic's visa again

Australia cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time Friday in a sensational new attempt to deport the unvaccinated tennis superstar.

The country’s conservative government, defeated once in the courts, invoked extraordinary executive powers to again rip up the 34-year-old Serbian’s visa on public interest grounds.

The move came just three days before the Australian Open starts, putting Djokovic’s dream of a record 21st Grand Slam in serious doubt.

Djokovic, an avowed Covid-19 vaccine sceptic, is the tournament’s top seed and had been practising on the Melbourne Park courts just hours before Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s bombshell decision was announced.

The government is “firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Hawke said in a statement.

He cited “health and good order grounds” for the decision and said “it was in the public interest to do so”. 

Prime Minister Scott Morrison backed the decision: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”

The visa cancellation effectively means the world’s number one tennis player would be barred from obtaining a new Australian visa for three years, except under exceptional circumstances.

But at an emergency court hearing late Friday, the tennis ace challenged the decision. Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood requested an injunction against his removal and appealed for him to be allowed to remain out of immigration detention as the case proceeds.

“We are very concerned about time,” Wood said, arguing that the government’s decision was marked by “irrationality.”

The megastar flew into Melbourne airport on January 5 claiming a vaccine exemption because of a positive PCR test result on December 16.

Border agents rejected his exemption, revoked his visa and placed him in a notorious Melbourne detention centre.

The Australian government insists a recent infection does not qualify as a vaccine exemption for foreign nationals trying to enter the country.

Djokovic’s vaccine waiver provoked outrage among many Australians who have endured nearly two years of some of the toughest coronavirus restrictions.