Novak Djokovic’s visa saga has drawn out protesters of all stripes

“free money [sic],” read a handwritten sign of a protester clinging to a tennis racket. “Let Novak play.”

Morrison told reporters on Thursday that Tennis Australia was advised in a letter until November 2021 that uninfected players with recent Covid-19 infections would not be allowed to enter the country based on public health guidelines.

Djokovic’s legal team won an immediate injunction against the ruling, but it is unclear whether the current Australian Open men’s singles champion will be able to compete in the tournament, which begins on 17 January.

Djokovic’s lawyers are appealing for his visa cancellation and do not want to comment ahead of his court hearing on Monday.

His case has gone too far A personal visa issue. It inspires anger from those who feel the rich and powerful are getting an easy ride when it comes to Australia’s tougher Covid-19 rules, which have seen families separate for years – but it There are also anti-Semitism who believe the coronavirus restrictions are encroaching on their civil liberties. And it is fueled by concerns from Australia’s Serbian community, some of whom say Djokovic is being unfairly targeted.

But Djokovic’s situation has also exposed the plight of asylum seekers in Australia. While the tennis star will eventually either be allowed to play in tournaments or be forced to leave the country, other detainees in the same facility have been held in detention for years – and face indefinite detention under Australia’s strict immigration rules. is falling

widespread outrage

Dozens of protesters from various groups across the political spectrum gathered outside the Park Hotel on Friday, with one thing that united them: the push for independence.

Some were from Serbian cultural groups, singing and waving the flag of the Balkan country, who saw Djokovic’s detention as a great injustice against one of the world’s biggest sports stars.

Tara, 17-year-old Australian-Serb and junior tennis player who did not give a last name, said “I don’t know why she should be kept in a detention centre.” “Everyone has their freedom of choice, vaccinated or not.”

Djokovic, who is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on a record 20 men’s Grand Slam singles titles, has not publicly disclosed his vaccination status but has opposed COVID-19 vaccines and the vaccine mandate in April 2020.

A general view of the Government Detention Centre, Park Hotel.

Others used Djokovic’s plight as an opportunity to criticize how the vaccine mandate undermined civil liberties.

One woman – who gave her name only as Matty for privacy reasons – said that if Djokovic goes home, she will not be able to watch the Australian Open.

“I used to go every year – I can’t go this year because of the vaccine mandate,” said Matty, who said he was unconvinced.

Another masked man, who declined to speak to CNN, carried a sign declaring Djokovic a “hostage of the Communist state.”

But others turned their attention to the roughly 30 refugees held at the hotel.

Authorities detain another top-flight tennis player over visa issues ahead of Australian Open

Previously used by the Australian government as a COVID-19 quarantine facility, the hotel has been an alternate location (APOD) for refugees and asylum seekers for at least one year.

Almost a decade ago, Australia said that any refugees arriving by boat would never be resettled in the country. Hundreds were kept in offshore processing centers for years, although some were sent to hotels in Australia to be treated for health conditions.

Refugees still have little hope of freedom, and the circumstances they are in are highly controversial. Standing in front of the Park Hotel, which is tagged with the words “free them,” teacher Tom Hardman, 27, said he has come out in support of the refugees.

“I am here because these people are suffering from loneliness and heartache, not knowing when they will be released, it is unbearable to watch,” he said.

The police guard the government detention center.

Oscar Sterner, 25, said he was against both anti-vaxxers and the way refugees were detained – and added that the real problem was keeping a non-vaccinated visitor at a hotel with refugees, which therapy was required.

“Djokovic is a millionaire crook who has caused the wrath of a lot of people in Australia,” he said. “She can’t be bothered to get vaccinated to protect the people around her.”

how is it inside

Djokovic’s supporters target his treatment, With tennis star mother Saying that his son is being treated “like a prisoner.”

“It’s so dirty and the food’s so terrible,” Dijana Djokovic told reporters at a news conference in Belgrade, Serbia’s capital on Thursday. “It’s not fair. It’s not human.”

American tennis star John Isner also tweeted in support of Djokovic, saying it was “not right” to keep him at the hotel.

“There is no justification for the treatment he is receiving. He followed the rules, was allowed to enter Australia, and is now being detained against his will. It’s a great shame.” “

Australia’s Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews said on Friday that Djokovic was “not being held captive” and could leave the country when he wanted to.

“He’s free to go any time he wants to and the Border Force will actually facilitate that,” Andrews told public broadcaster ABC. “It is the responsibility of the individual traveler to ensure that they have all the necessary documents required to enter Australia.”

Australian immigration law allows a ban on re-entry into the country for up to three years after visa cancellation under certain conditions – but it is not clear whether Djokovic will face such a penalty.

The Professional Tennis Players’ Association said in a statement on Friday that Djokovic had confirmed his well being.

“With the utmost respect for all individual views on vaccination, both vaccinated athletes and unvaccinated athletes (with an approved medical exemption) should be given the freedom to compete,” the association co-founded by Djokovic said. “We will continue to support and support our members and all players in a way that is acceptable to them.”

Australia has vowed never to allow these people to settle on its soil.  some have just got a visa

According to human rights lawyer Alison Battison, who has four clients inside the Park Hotel, visitors to Australia without the correct visas are usually handcuffed and taken to an immigration detention center in an unmarked van with blacked-out windows. is gone.

“It’s an incredibly painful and inhumane process,” she said.

Video from the Park Hotel shared with CNN shows detainees in small rooms that include a double bed, a TV and a few chairs. Asylum seekers have access to a ladder that leads them to the roof where they are able to smoke. It is not clear whether Djokovic is living under the same conditions.

“It’s a window, we can’t open it at any stage,” said one of the detainees, Adnan Chopani, in a video filmed for CNN.

While footage filmed by Chopani shows the hotel to be neat and tidy, there have been reports of issues in the past. According to Battison, there was a Covid outbreak at the facility last year, and detainees have reported finding insects in their food.

other prisoners

For the 30 or so refugees held at the hotel, the media spotlight on Djokovic is hard to swallow. Many have been held in custody for years – and there is little hope of ever getting out.

Mehdi, who asked to use only one name to protect his family, fled Iran when he was 15 and remained in Australian custody for more than eight years with limited access to education or health care.

Mehdi, who turned 24 on Friday, said, “I have finished my time.” “We are suffering, we are tired and we are tired… you are in indefinite custody, which means they can keep you for as long as they want.”

Cousins ​​Adnan Chopani and Mehdi were 15 when they fled Iran.  Now, he is 24 and still in immigration custody.

Chopani said he and his fellow detainees were sitting in their rooms, many of whom were taking medication for depression. Chopani is Mehdi’s cousin, and left Iran when he was 15. He dreams of walking down the street or going out for coffee.

“It’s unbelievable,” he said. “I think it’s just a nightmare… We live in the 21st century, in a country that believes in democracy and is still treating innocent people like this.”

While it is unclear whether Djokovic will be allowed to play at Melbourne Park this month, the tennis star will eventually be kicked out of the hotel.

Former Australia national team footballer Craig Foster, who has advocated on behalf of the asylum seekers, says he hopes at least something good can happen from the situation.

“In a way, it is good for the world to see how Australia is treating our entrants, whether they are asylum seekers or refugees, or indeed athletes like Novak, who on the documentation on their visas, obviously gone wrong,” he said.

“If anything, we are hoping that this whole shameful saga will put Australians in a position where they can understand more of the plight of these people.”

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