Novak Djokovic can remain in Australia, court rules
Following hours of deliberations and technical glitches, an Australian judge on Monday quashed the government’s decision to cancel Novak’s Djokovic’s visa and ordered him to be freed.
It is still unclear whether Djokovic will play in the Australian Open, which begins on January 17, as Australia’s immigration minister still has the power to cancel his visa. However, the Serb tennis star has returned to training and made it clear he intends to play.
Here’s a recap of Monday’s events:
What happened: Monday’s hearing was to determine whether Djokovic could remain in Australia. He had arrived on January 5, only to have his visa canceled and face temporary detention because he did not have a valid medical exemption for the Covid-19 vaccination requirement for all arrivals.
Why: Djokovic was under the impression he could enter the country because he had received a medical exemption from the tournament organizers, which had been granted on the grounds that he had natural immunity after being infected with Covid-19 in December, his defense argued.
The government’s legal defense argued the tennis star did not provide evidence why he could not be vaccinated against Covid-19, adding that a previous Covid infection did not equate to a valid medical reason why he could not get the shot.
What the judge said: Justice Anthony Kelly appeared to acknowledge Djokovic’s position, saying he was “agitated” by the burden placed on the tennis star. But the final decision to reinstate the visa was because Djokovic had not been given sufficient notice of his visa cancelation, or enough time by the government to prepare materials.
Further controversy: It emerged from Djokovic’s sworn affidavit that he knew he had tested positive for Covid-19 on the same day he was photographed at three events, where none of the other participants were masked. The following day, he was also photographed at a youth awards event.
Beyond tennis: Djokovic’s situation runs much deeper than a rejected visa. His dispute coincides with a steep rise in Australia’s Covid-19 cases, which are approaching a pandemic total of 1 million. For many Australians, memories of painful border closures and other Covid restrictions remain fresh.
It has also highlighted the plight of asylum seekers in Australia — with dozens of refugees held inside the same detention hotel Djokovic stayed in who have been locked up for years, and who face indefinite detention under the country’s tough immigration rules.