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Novak Djokovic in limbo as he fights deportation from Australia

Locked in a dispute over his COVID-19 vaccination standing, Novak Djokovic was confined to an immigration detention lodge in Australia on Thursday because the No. 1 males’s tennis participant on the earth awaited a court docket ruling on whether or not he can compete within the Australian Open later this month.

Djokovic, a vocal skeptic of vaccines, had traveled to Australia after Victoria state authorities granted him a medical exemption to the nation’s strict vaccination necessities. However when he arrived late Wednesday, the Australian Border Drive rejected his exemption as invalid and barred him from getting into the nation.

A court docket listening to on his bid to stave off deportation was set for Monday, every week earlier than the season’s first main tennis event is ready to start. The defending Australian Open champion is ready it out in Melbourne at a safe lodge utilized by immigration officers to deal with asylum seekers and refugees.

Djokovic is hoping to overhaul rivals Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer and win his twenty first Grand Slam singles title, essentially the most by any participant in males’s tennis. Djokovic’s securing of an exemption in order that he may play triggered an uproar and allegations of particular remedy in Australia, the place folks spent months in lockdown and endured harsh journey restrictions on the top of the pandemic.

Novak Djokovic A protestor holds indicators outdoors Park Lodge, the place Serbian tennis participant Novak Djokovic is believed to be residing, in Melbourne (Supply: Reuters)

After his long-haul flight, the tennis star spent the evening on the airport making an attempt to persuade authorities he had the mandatory documentation, to no avail. “The rule could be very clear,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison mentioned. “You want to have a medical exemption. He didn’t have a legitimate medical exemption. We make the decision on the border, and that’s the place it’s enforced.”

Well being Minister Greg Hunt mentioned the athlete’s visa was cancelled after border officers reviewed Djokovic’s medical exemption and checked out “the integrity and the proof behind it.” The grounds on which he was granted an exemption weren’t instantly disclosed.

Whereas Djokovic has steadfastly refused to say whether or not he has gotten any pictures in opposition to the coronavirus, he has spoken out in opposition to vaccines, and it’s extensively presumed he wouldn’t have sought an exemption if he had been vaccinated. A federal decide will take up the case subsequent week. A lawyer for the federal government agreed the nine-time Australian Open champion shouldn’t be deported earlier than then.

“I really feel horrible since yesterday that they’re protecting him as a prisoner. It’s not truthful. It’s not human. I hope that he’ll win,“ Djokovic’s mom, Dijana, mentioned after talking with him briefly by phone from Belgrade. She added: “Horrible, horrible lodging. It’s just a few small immigration lodge, if it’s a lodge in any respect.“ Australia’s residence affairs minister, Karen Andrews, mentioned Friday that Djokovic may fly in a foreign country on the primary out there flight.

“Can I say, firstly, that Mr. Djokovic is just not being held captive in Australia. He’s free to go away at any time that he chooses to take action,” Andrews mentioned.

“And Border Drive will truly facilitate that.” Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic has additionally spoken to Djokovic and mentioned his authorities requested that the athlete be allowed to maneuver to a home he has rented and “to not be in that notorious lodge.” He mentioned Djokovic has been handled in a different way from different gamers.

“I’m afraid that this overkill will proceed,“ Vucic mentioned. “When you may’t beat somebody, you then do such issues.” Border Drive investigations had been persevering with into two different individuals who arrived in Australia for the tennis event, Andrews mentioned. Australia’s prime minister mentioned the onus is on the traveler to have the right documentation on arrival, and he rejected any suggestion that Djokovic was being singled out.

“One of many issues the Border Drive does is act on intelligence to direct their consideration to potential arrivals,” he mentioned. “Once you get folks making public statements about what they are saying they’ve, and so they’re going to do, they draw important consideration to themselves.” Anybody who does that, he mentioned, “whether or not they’re a star, a politician, a tennis participant . . . they will count on to be requested questions greater than others earlier than you come.”

Novak Djokovic Protestors collect outdoors an immigration detention lodge the place Serbia’s Novak Djokovic is believed to remain, in Melbourne, Australia, Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. Locked in a dispute over his COVID-19 vaccination standing, Djokovic was confined to the immigration detention lodge in Australia on Thursday because the No. 1 males’s tennis participant on the earth awaited a court docket ruling on whether or not he can compete within the Australian Open later this month. (AP Picture/Hamish Blair)

The medical-exemption functions from gamers, their groups and tennis officers had been vetted by two unbiased panels of specialists. An accredited exemption allowed entry to the event. Acceptable causes for an exemption embrace main well being situations and severe reactions to a earlier dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.

A COVID-19 an infection inside the earlier six months has additionally been extensively reported to be grounds for an exemption, however that’s the place interpretations appeared to vary between the federal degree, which controls the border, and tennis and state well being officers. Former Australian Open event director and Davis Cup participant Paul McNamee mentioned the remedy of Djokovic was unfair.

“The man performed by the principles, he received his visa, he arrives, he’s a nine-time champion and whether or not folks prefer it or not he’s entitled to truthful play,” McNamee instructed the Australian Broadcasting Corp. “There’s little doubt there’s some disconnect between the state and the federal authorities. “I hate to assume politics are concerned however it feels that approach.” Djokovic examined constructive for the coronavirus in June 2020 after he performed in a collection of exhibition matches that he organized with out social distancing amid the pandemic.

Critics questioned what grounds Djokovic may have for the exemption, whereas supporters argued he has a proper to privateness and freedom of selection. Many Australians who’ve struggled to acquire COVID-19 exams or have been pressured into isolation noticed a double customary. Rigidity has grown amid one other surge of COVID-19 within the nation. Victoria state recorded six deaths and almost 22,000 new instances on Thursday, the most important one-day leap within the caseload for the reason that pandemic started. Australian Open event director Craig Tiley has defended the “utterly official software and course of” and insisted there was no particular remedy for Djokovic.

Twenty-six folks linked with the event utilized for a medical exemption and, Tiley mentioned, solely a “handful” had been granted. None of these have been publicly recognized.



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