Novak Djokovic visa: Australian minister Alex Hawke says threat of ‘civil unrest’ is behind cancellation

tennis champion Novak Djokovik, who has been described as a risk for “civil unrest” and “the talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment”, may never get the chance to defend his Australian Open title, facing a three-year ban from the country. may have to. Deitch Court challenged the stay.

Australia’s immigration minister, Alex Hawke, personally revoked the unvaccinated world’s No 1 visa, arguing that his presence in Australia could provoke “civil unrest” and help others fight against COVID-19. may encourage the avoidance of vaccination.

Djokovic faces a federal court hearing on Sunday morning, Australia time, which will determine whether the minister acted improperly in revoking his visa.

Documents filed in the court show that the minister had sent Djokovic as a justification for canceling his visa.

Hawke said he acknowledged Djokovic’s recent COVID-19 infection, which meant he was “negligible risk to those around him”, but that he was “held by some as an amulet of anti-vaccination sentiment”. was regarded as”.

“I think Mr Djokovic’s ongoing presence in Australia could lead to an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment in the Australian community, potentially increasing the civil unrest previously experienced in Australia with rallies and protests that are themselves a Source of community transmission

“Mr. Djokovic … is a man of influence and status.

“With regard to Mr Djokovic’s conduct, his publicly stated views, as well as his unaffiliated condition after receiving a positive COVID-19 result, I feel that his ongoing presence in Australia serves as a source of public health advice to others. may encourage you to act disregarded or inconsistently. and policies in Australia. ,

Djokovic’s visa was revoked under the extraordinary and broad powers vested in the Australian Minister of Immigration under Section 133C(3) of Australia’s Migration Act, introduced in 2014, when Scott Morrison, the current Prime Minister, was Minister of Immigration.

After a visa is revoked under that section, a person is barred from returning to Australia for three years, except in exceptional circumstances “which affect the interests of Australia or the interests of an Australian citizen in a compassionate manner.” or under compelling circumstances”.

Hawke said the consequences of Djokovic’s visa cancellation were “significant”.

“Mr Djokovic regularly travels to Australia to compete in tennis tournaments …

If the three-year ban against Djokovic is upheld, he would be 37 or 38 years old before being allowed back to Australia, to compete in a tournament he has won a record nine times.

Djokovic’s legal team argued that ministers failed to consider that Djokovic’s detention by the government and his possible forced expulsion from Australia could also fuel anti-vaccination sentiment.

In documents submitted to the court, Djokovic’s lawyers argued that the minister had “irrational, irrational, [and] Unreasonable approach to the question of public interest” and his own exercise of the minister’s discretion.

“The minister cited no evidence to support his conclusion that Mr Djokovic’s presence in Australia ‘may fuel anti-vaccination sentiment’, and was not open to the minister to investigate.”

Migration experts have questioned, if the Australian government is concerned that Djokovic would inspire anti-vaccination sentiment in Australia, in the original decision to grant him a visa on 18 November or when his visa was first revoked at the airport. , so it was not considered.

Djokovic’s treatment has drawn sharp reactions in Serbia, where the Belgrade-born player is a national hero.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic condemned it on social media “harassment” and “political witch-hunt” targeting “the world’s best tennis player”, while foreign ministry said He was “lured to humiliate Australia”.

The Djokovic visa saga has now gone 10 days, with a growing number of Omicron variant case numbers across Australia, a lack of tests, food and other essentials, and a distraction from a public health system under acute stress.

Djokovic arrived in Australia on the evening of 5 January. He believed that the visa granted on 18 November and the waiver approved by Tennis Australia’s Chief Medical Officer and a Victorian Government independent expert panel would be sufficient to enter Australia

Following a late night questioning at Melbourne airport, Djokovic’s visa was initially revoked last Thursday by a representative of the Minister for Home Affairs, on the grounds that recent Covid infections were an exemption from Australia’s strict vaccination requirements. was not enough.

The representative concluded that, since he had not been vaccinated, Djokovic posed a threat to public health.

But on Monday, a federal circuit court judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa, concluding that it was necessary for the Australian Border Force to contact its legal team at the airport and give him more time to address the waiver. It was unfair to back out of the deal.

Public prosecutors immediately put the Australian Open No. 1 seed on notice that the immigration minister would consider exercising his personal power to revoke the visa.

Djokovic faced an agonizing wait with questions about his travel fortnight before arriving in Australia and attendance at events following his positive Covid diagnosis on 16 December.

On Wednesday, Djokovic admitted that his agent had made an “administrative mistake” when he announced that he had not traveled two weeks before his flight to Australia by not isolating after testing positive for COVID-19. Admitted “error of judgment”. Hawke said these were not a significant factor in his decision to revoke Djokovic’s visa, and he accepted Djokovic’s explanation.

Djokovic is currently in immigration detention in Melbourne. His case will be heard in federal court on Sunday morning Australia time. If he loses, he will face expulsion from Australia.

The Australian Open starts on Monday.