The Australian government on Friday cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time, saying the Serbian tennis star may pose a risk to the community as he is unvaccinated for COVID-19.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke used his discretionary power to revoke Djokovic’s visa days after a court overturned an earlier cancellation of his visa and ordered his release from immigration detention in Melbourne.
“Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” the minister said in a statement.
The government “is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic,” Hawke said.
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” Prime Minister Scott Morrison said.
Djokovic was first denied entry to Australia last week . He claims to have tested positive for COVID-19 on December 16 and says therefore that he does not need a coronavirus vaccine to enter the country.
Watch video 02:22
Novak Djokovic in limbo ahead of Australian Open
What does this mean for Djokovic?
Djokovic had been asked to attend a meeting with immigration officials on Saturday, and will remain out of detention until then, local media reported.
The minister’s decision came a day after he was confirmed in the official draw for the Australian Open men’s tournament . The tournament is due to start on Monday.
The tennis world No. 1 could now be deported from the country. If that happens, Djokovic would also be banned from coming to Australia for three years, except in compelling circumstances that affect Australia’s interest.
The nine-time Australian Open champion could appeal the visa cancellation in court once again, as he successfully did after the first cancellation.
More than just tennis
The case has polarized opinions and prompted a discussion on the rights of unvaccinated people worldwide.
When Djokovic announced his plans to travel to Australia with a medical exemption earlier this month, many Australians responded with anger and frustration.
Australia, and Melbourne in particular, has witnessed some of the strictest lockdowns over the last two years , in order to ward off the virus.
Critics not only targeted Djokovic for being unvaccinated, but also blamed the Australian government’s handling of the situation.
The controversy has even strained diplomatic ties between Canberra and Belgrade. Earlier this week, Prime Minister Morrison and his Serbian counterpart Ana Brnabic had spoken one-on-one to discuss the situation.
adi/dj (AP, Reuters)
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