Djokovic denied entry into Australia; the Serb had an “exemption permission” but the visa he applied for did not allow for medical exemptions; details of Djokovic’s appeal – to be heard on Monday – reveal exemption is based on him having tested positive for Covid-19 in December
By Michael Cantillon
Last Updated: 09/01/22 12:37pm
We answer the key questions and provide the latest updates as Novak Djokovic awaits an appeal hearing that will decide whether he is allowed to enter Australia and play in the first grand slam of the 2022.
In a nutshell, what’s happened?
World No 1 Djokovic flew to Australia with a ‘vaccine exemption’ and arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday, but was ultimately denied entry into the country after nine hours at the airport. The Serb’s visa was one that did not allow for medical exemptions and was cancelled, after which he was moved to hotel quarantine as his team launched an appeal – which has now been adjourned until 10am on Monday (2300 GMT on Sunday).
Novak Djokovic – Sequence of events
|January 4 – Djokovic announces he will be travelling to Australia with an ‘exemption permission’.|
|January 5 – While Djokovic is airborne, Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison says the athlete will be on the “next plane home” if he cannot provide “acceptable proof” that his exemption is legitimate.|
|Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford highlights that the local government of Victoria, where the Australian Open is held, will not support Djokovic’s visa application.|
|The world No 1 arrives at Melbourne Airport around 11.30pm local time.|
|January 6 – Around 3.15am, Djokovic’s father reports that his son is being held in isolation in Melbourne Airport.|
|At 5am, Goran Ivanisevic releases an image on social media of himself and another member of Djokovic’s team seemingly waiting for the world No 1. The post is captioned, ‘Not the most usual trip Down Under’.|
|Around 8.15am local time, Djokovic’s visa is confirmed to have been denied by the Australian Border Force.|
|Djokovic is moved to quarantine hotel while his legal team appeal visa cancellation.|
|The appeal against his visa cancellation is adjourned until Monday (Jan 10) morning Australian time.|
|January 7 – Australia Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews says Djokovic is “free to leave any time” and is not being detained.|
|Djokovic breaks silence in Instagram post on Friday, thanking his fans for their “continuous support”.|
|January 8 – Submission from Djokovic’s lawyers on Saturday reveals positive Covid-19 test in December.|
|January 9 – Home Affairs Minister Andrews has a submission to delay the hearing until Wednesday (Jan 12) rejected by Judge Anthony Kelly.|
What are Australia’s current rules of entry?
Australia currently requires all foreign visitors entering the country to be double vaccinated, and to hold a valid and appropriate visa.
There are medical exemptions whereby some travellers may enter the country unvaccinated, but all of these are viewed and assessed alongside visas by Australia Border Force upon the traveller’s arrival to immigration.
Australian Open 2022 key dates
- The 2022 tournament due to start on Monday, January 17.
Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison also confirmed Australia Border Force outlined expectations of the federal government to Tennis Australia in letters sent in November regarding vaccinated and unvaccinated entry, and a recent Covid infection was not a valid reason.
Criteria listed by the Australian Technical Advisory Group as permissible reasons for a medical exemption range from acute major medical conditions to any serious adverse event attributed to a previous dose of Covid-19 vaccine.
Who granted Djokovic a vaccine exemption?
Having been originally named in Serbia’s team for the ATP Cup in Sydney, Djokovic then withdrew, leading to mystery surrounding his participation in the 2022 Australian Open.
On Tuesday, Djokovic then revealed on his social media channels that he had been given an “exemption permission” to travel and play at the Australian Open without a Covid-19 vaccination. The response in Australia and around the world was hugely negative.
Happy New Year! Wishing you all health, love & joy in every moment & may you feel love & respect towards all beings on this wonderful planet.
I’ve spent fantastic quality time with loved ones over break & today I’m heading Down Under with an exemption permission. Let’s go 2022! pic.twitter.com/e688iSO2d4
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) January 4, 2022
The Australian Open released a statement saying his medical exemption had passed a ‘rigorous, multi-step’ review, which involved two separate independent panels of medical experts.
These were an expert panel made up of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice, and the Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel appointed by the Victorian Department of Health.
Tennis Australia – the sporting body which runs Australia’s Grand Slam – and the Victorian Department of Health had drawn up and finalised plans for Covid-19 vaccination protocols for the Australian Open, and were the ones who granted Djokovic his initial medical exemption.
Is Novak Djokovic vaccinated?
Djokovic has never publicly revealed whether he is vaccinated against Covid-19, but has repeatedly criticised mandates ruling that players must be double-jabbed.
The latest events with Australia Border Force seem to provide the clearest indication yet that Djokovic is unvaccinated.
In April 2020, Djokovic said on a Facebook Live chat he was “personally opposed to vaccinations,” while his wife, Jelena, has promoted discredited social media messages linking Covid-19 to 5G technology.
Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley had said it would be “helpful” for Djokovic to clarify his situation on what exempts him from vaccination.
“We completely understand and empathise that some would have been upset by the fact that Novak Djokovic has come in because of his statements around vaccination in the past couple of years,” Tiley told reporters.
“We would love Novak to talk about it and help us with it, but ultimately it’s going to be up to him.
“We aren’t in a position, even legally, to disclose other people’s medical information.”
What were the issues with Djokovic’s visa?
Having landed in Melbourne at around 11.30pm local time on Wednesday evening on a flight from Dubai, the 20-time grand slam winner reportedly attempted to enter the country on a visa that did not permit medical exemptions for being unvaccinated.
According to reports, Djokovic and his team submitted the wrong type of visa, which caused heavy delays at the airport.
When Border Force contacted government officials in Victoria to sponsor the visa, they refused to do so.
Indeed, the local government of Victoria, the state where the Australian Open is played, said it would not support Djokovic’s application, with Acting Sports Minister Jaala Pulford confirming as much in a statement on social media.
Update on #AusOpen2022…
The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia.
We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.
— Jaala Pulford MP (@JaalaPulford) January 5, 2022
Why did Australia Border Force deny him entry?
Upon landing in Melbourne, in addition to the visa error, Djokovic’s ‘vaccine exemption’ was deemed not sufficient for border officials with regard to entry into a country that has strict requirements.
The Serb was held for more than nine hours at the airport before ultimately being denied entry, as the federal government has a higher authority than previous decisions and statements made by Tennis Australia, which had been endorsed by the state government.
An Australian Border Force (ABF) statement read: “Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.
“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 ABF can confirm Mr Djokovic had access to his phone.”
Where is Djokovic now and can he train?
After he was denied entry into the country, Djokovic was transported from the airport to the Park Hotel in Carlton, Melbourne, where he has been placed in quarantine isolation.
The hotel is currently being used as an immigration detention centre, houses asylum seekers, and for more than a year has held detainees returned to Australia for urgent medical attention from offshore immigration holding centres on Papua New Guinea’s Manus Island.
It is described as a “luxurious 4.5-star hotel set in a prime location” on their website, with 107 rooms, an outdoor swimming pool and spa/wellness facilities, but no mention of tennis courts.
It is understood Djokovic has had a request denied to be moved to accommodation where he would have access to a tennis court. A request for access to a personal chef is also rejected.
What stage is Djokovic’s appeal at?
Having been transported from Melbourne airport to his quarantine hotel, court documents showed Djokovic’s team applied for an injunction against the visa cancellation.
After Australia’s Border Force confirmed Djokovic’s visa had been revoked, the 34-year-old’s injunction request was initially listed for hearing at 4pm on Thursday (0500 GMT) in the Federal Circuit and Family Court.
The hearing was later adjourned until 6pm (0700 GMT), and then again most recently until 10am on Monday, January 10 (2300 Sunday GMT), with Djokovic told by the Federal Court of Australia that he can remain in Melbourne until his appeal resumes.
On Thursday, Judge Anthony Kelly confirmed if Djokovic was shown to have failed to meet the visa entry requirements, then immigration minister Alek Hawke would be unable to grant the tennis player an exemption.
On Sunday, the Australian home affairs department had an appeal to delay the hearing until Wednesday rejected. However, the judge left the government with the option of making another application to delay on Monday.
According to Reuters, Djokovic’s lawyers will have up to two hours to present their case from 10am on Monday (2300 GMT on Sunday), while the government department gets two hours to present its defence from 3pm (0400 GMT).
Why was Djokovic in public after alleged positive test?
On Saturday, a filing submitted by Djokovic’s lawyers ahead of the appeal hearing revealed that his medical exemption is based upon a positive Covid-19 test from December.
In court documents, it was stated the Serb recorded a positive test on December 16, and has “not had a fever or respiratory symptoms of COVID-19 in the last 72 hours”.
However, Djokovic then began facing fresh questions as why he was pictured in public on the day he claimed he tested positive for Covid-19.
An honor to receive my very own Serbian stamp. Thank you to my generous country for this rare gift! I’m humbled!! Excited to share we’ll partner with the Serbian National Postal Service on @novakfoundation projects for every child to have the opportunity to attend preschool 🙏🏼 pic.twitter.com/Ww8Zma95NU
— Novak Djokovic (@DjokerNole) December 17, 2021
The world number one attended an event on December 16 at the Belgrade headquarters of the Serbian national post office, which was honouring him and his career with the release of a series of stamps.
Djokovic posted pictures from the event – in which he is seen maskless – on his Twitter account on December 17.
It is unclear if Djokovic knew he had Covid when he attended the event.
What have the Australian Government said?
“There are no special cases, rules are rules,” PM Morrison has said.
“We will continue to make the right decisions when it comes to securing Australian borders in relation to this pandemic.”
Mr Djokovic’s visa has been cancelled. Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.
— Scott Morrison (@ScottMorrisonMP) January 5, 2022
Australia Health Minister Greg Hunt: “The Prime Minister has been clear that Australians have had to do it tough… and it’s not unreasonable to have exactly the same requirements of all who enter this country. So fair and equitable for all, and the requirements were not able to be met.
“There was an exemption that had been provided through the Victorian Government process. Clearly, that did not pass the standards of proof that were required by the Australian Border Force. Yes, it’s tough but it is fair and equitable and it’s one rule for all under this Australian Government.”
Australian Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has added Djokovic could opt to return home and is “free to leave any time”, amid claims that he is being “held captive”.
What has the reaction been in Serbia?
Serbia’s president Aleksandar Vucic has made his stance clear, labelling Djokovic’s treatment as ‘political persecution’.
“We are all asking just one thing: to let Novak Djokovic move out from this horrific hotel into a rented home where he can prepare for the tournament, while he is awaiting a court decision on Monday. In this house, he can be under surveillance 24 hours.
“Whatever Novak has asked his country to do, we did, we wanted to do it and it’s our obligation to do it. It is our obligation, as a state, to protect the interests of our citizens. We are dedicated to that. What’s not fair is this political persecution, that everyone is taking part in, even the Australian Prime Minister.
“I’m afraid this kind of political ranting against Novak Djokovic will continue. They want to prove something else. When you can’t beat someone then you do these kind of things.”
On Thursday, Djokovic’s father demonstrated outside the National Assembly buildings, and said of his son: “He met all the required conditions for the entry and participation at the tournament that he would have certainly won, since it’s Novak, the best tennis player and sportsman in the world.”
Srdjan Djokovic added: “Jesus was crucified and endured many things, but is still alive among us. Novak is also crucified… he will endure.”
What do Djokovic’s fellow players think?
Rafael Nadal criticised Djokovic for “not following the rules”, saying: “If he wanted, he would be playing without a problem.
“He has taken his own position and everybody is free to take their position. But there are consequences. I don’t like the situation. In some ways, I feel sorry for him.
“But he knew the conditions months ago. He made his own decision.”
Australia’s Nick Kyrgios weighed in on Twitter to call for his country to “do better” in its treatment of Djokovic.
Andy Murray expressed concern for Djokovic but has warned that the saga is “really not good for tennis”.
“I hope that Novak is OK. I know him well, and I’ve always had a good relationship with him and I hope that he’s OK,” Murray said.
“It’s really not good for tennis at all, and I don’t think it’s good for anyone involved. I think it’s really bad.”
Source : Sky Sports