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.
Vax-Mandate Protesters Gather in Australia to Back Detained Tennis Superstar Novak Djokovic
The protesters numbered about a dozen, and reportedly had an audience only of the police and a reporter.The group stationed itself outside of the facility, which is actually a quarantine hotel in Melbourne in which Djokovic, 34, must remain until his deportation. The protesters reportedly numbered only about one dozen people, and the only reported audience were a few reporters and some police officers standing outside the hotel.
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.
Open from Australia: For what reasons Has the Visa of Novak Djokov been canceled?
Arrived in Melbourne Wednesday to participate in the first Grand Slam tournament of the year, the world number 1 saw its visa be canceled. In question, its vaccination exemption against CVIV-19, invalid according to the Australian authorities. © provided by FranceInfo arrived and immediately blocked in Australia.
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.
Djokovic faces a third day in Australian migrant detention in COVID vaccine furore
Djokovic faces a third day in Australian migrant detention in COVID vaccine furoreThe Serbian superstar, a vocal opponent of vaccine mandates who came to Australia in hopes of winning his 21st Grand Slam at the Australian Open, has been holed up since Thursday in a modest Melbourne hotel since having his visa cancelled due to problems with a medical exemption.
"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."
Djokovic lawyers say COVID infection gave him Australia exemption
In court filing, lawyers say tennis star contracted COVID-19 last month and was later granted a vaccine exemption.Djokovic was denied entry at the Melbourne airport after border officials cancelled his visa for failing to meet its entry requirement that all non-citizens be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
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."
Djokovic detention draws focus to Australia's asylum-seekers
SYDNEY (AP) — Novak Djokovic spent a fourth day on Sunday among the unwilling occupants of Melbourne's Park Hotel. The tennis superstar is awaiting court proceedings on Monday that will determine whether he can defend his Australian Open title or whether he will be deported — and the world has shown keen interest in his temporary accommodation. His fellow residents in the immigration detention hotel include refugees and asylum-seekers who are challenging their own proceedings that have all lasted much longer than Djokovic's. So long in some cases they feel forgotten.
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.
Djokovic detained ahead of Australian visa appeal .
The tennis star will hear on Sunday whether he can stay in the country and compete unvaccinated.The Serbian faces deportation after his visa was cancelled for a second time, with the government labelling the 34-year-old a threat to the public.