World Tennis Star Novak Djokovic Held in Guarded Room in Australia After Reported Visa Mix-Up
Australia cancels Novak Djokovic's visa over COVID vaccine policy
Djokovic had been stuck in an airport due to issues related to his COVID vaccine exemption for the Australian Open."Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia," the border force said.
Novak Djokovic's entry into Australia is now uncertain as the tennis star is being held in a room guarded by police after an issue related to his visa was discovered that reportedly stems from a medical exemption to COVID-19 vaccine requirements he was granted to play in the upcoming Australian Open.
The issue comes a day after Djokovicthat he had received the exemption and would be competing in the tournament.
Open from Australia: Novak Djokovic "knew the conditions" to enter Australia, reacts Rafael Nadal
after his return to the victorious competition in Melbourne, Rafael Nadal spoke on the misadventures of Novak Djokovic. © Supplied by FranceInfo Rafael Nadal, Trombur of the Lithuanian Berankis 6-2, 7-5 to the 2nd round of the Melbourne tournament, Thursday, January 6, showed few emotions with regard to the situation of Novak Djokovi , blocked by the Australian authorities for a visa problem.
The tennis star reportedly arrived at Tullamarine Airport around midnight local time Wednesday, and The Age newspaper reported that his entry process was delayed when a mistake in his visa application was discovered.
The Victorian state government mandated that entrance to Melbourne Park, where the tournament will begin on January 17, would be limited to players, officials, fans and other staff who are fully vaccinated.
The exemption Djokovic received would allow him to play no matter his vaccination status, which he has not confirmed one way or the other. However, he needs to be in accordance with the medical regulations of the specific state and localities he is in.
Australian Open director Craig Tiley said only 26 people involved with the tournament applied for a medical exemption and only a "handful" were granted. He also said that while Djokovic is not obligated to reveal why he chose to seek an exemption, it could help his public case to explain the decision.
Djokovic's detention becomes political issue in Australia
SYDNEY (AP) — On a tennis court, Novak Djokovic’s timing is perfect. But when he arrived in Australia to play the first Grand Slam of the year holding documents allowing him to enter the country without a COVID-19 vaccine, his timing hardly could have been worse. When Djokovic landed in Melbourne on Wednesday he found himself in a city beset by surging virus cases. Border officials rejected Djokovic’s documentation, cancelled his visa and ordered him out of the country in a move that many Australians cheered. The tennis star's outspoken opposition to the COVID-19 vaccine struck a wrong note in a city where 92% of the eligible population is fully vaccinated.
Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open winner and the defending champion.
"Novak is currently in a room which no one can enter," Djokovic's father, Srdjan Djokovic, told the B92 internet portal. "In front of the room are two policemen."
Speculation of a possible issue with the visa emerged while Djokovic was in transit and escalated with mixed messages from federal and state lawmakers.
Djokovic's revelation on social media that he was heading to Australia seeking a record 21st major title sparked some debate and plenty of headlines on Wednesday, with critics questioning what grounds he could have for the exemption and backers arguing he has a right to privacy and freedom of choice.
Tiley defended the "completely legitimate application and process" and insisted there was no special treatment for Djokovic.
The names, ages and nationalities of applicants were redacted for privacy reasons before each application for a vaccine exemption was assessed by two independent panels of experts, and Tiley noted Djokovic is under no obligation to reveal his reason for seeking one.
Australia PM Says 'No One is Above' Rules Amid Novak Djokovic's Detainment Over COVID Jab
The tennis star's detainment comes as Melbourne, where the Australian Open is held, is experiencing a massive surge in COVID cases.Djokovic, who has denied confirming whether or not he has received the COVID-19 vaccine, was detained by immigration authorities on Thursday. The Serbian tennis player was originally allowed to attend the Australian Open through an exemption given by the Victoria state government and Tennis Australia. However, that exemption and his visa were canceled upon his arrival to the country on Wednesday.
"I would encourage him to talk to the community about it," Tiley said. "We have been through a very tough period over the last two years."
Among the reasons allowed for those applying for a vaccination exemption can include acute major medical conditions, serious adverse reaction to a previous dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, or evidence of a COVID-19 infection within the previous six months.
Jaala Pulford, Victoria state's acting minister for sports, acknowledged in the Djokovic case that lots of people in the community "will find this to be a disappointing outcome," but added: "Nobody has had special treatment. The process is incredibly robust."
Concerns about Djokovic's visa status took awhile to circulate.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison initially said the medical exemption decision was a matter for the government of Victoria, where Melbourne is the state capital.
"They have provided [Djokovic] with an exemption to come to Australia, and so we then act in accordance with that," Morrison said. "States provide exemptions for people to enter on those basis, and that's been happening for the last two years."
Novak Djokovic was granted medical exemption after testing positive for Covid-19 in December, court documents show
Novak Djokovic was granted a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open as he had recently recovered from Covid-19, court documents published on Saturday by Australia's Federal Circuit show.Novak Djokovic was granted a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open as he had recently recovered from Covid-19, court documents published on Saturday by Australia's Federal Circuit show.
Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews then clarified in a statement that the Australian Border Force would make the final determination.
"While the Victorian government and Tennis Australia may permit a non-vaccinated player to compete in the Australian Open, it is the Commonwealth government that will enforce our requirements at the Australian border," Andrews said. "If an arriving individual is not vaccinated, they must provide acceptable proof that they cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons to be able to access the same travel arrangement as fully vaccinated travelers."
When asked again about Djokovic's case, Morrison added: "If that evidence is insufficient, then he won't be treated any different to anyone else and he'll be on the next plane home."
"And so if medical exemptions had been provided by medical professionals and that's been furnished to him as a proviso for him to get on that plane, well, that will have to stack up when he arrives in Australia," the prime minister said.
Later still, Pulford, the Victoria state politician, posted onto say "the federal government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic's application to enter Australia."
She said the state government would not be providing individual application support, adding in a second post: "We've always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors."
Is Djokovic saga an unforced error for Australia?
The story of the star tennis player being held in Australia sparks ire at every twist and turn.Most of it has been directed at the authorities, be they in the federal or the Victorian state government.
Djokovic tested positive for the coronavirus in 2020 after he played in a series of exhibition matches that he organized in Serbia and Croatia without social distancing amid the pandemic.
It's possible that the 34-year-old Djokovic, who finished one win short of a calendar-year Grand Slam in 2021 when he lost the U.S. Open final to Daniil Medvedev, could have been infected again.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Novak Djokovic faces deportation after Australia revokes his visa again .
Novak Djokovic faces deportation after Australia revokes his visa againAustralian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke announced the decision on Friday.