Tennis star faces deportation as authorities say his ‘anti-vaccination sentiment’ may spark ‘civil unrest’ in Australia
Australian immigration authorities have arrested Novak Djokovic, arguing that although the Serb’s medical exemption from the Covid-19 vaccination was valid, his views are too dangerous to let him stay.
Djokovic was detained at an address in Melbourne early Saturday morning in accordance with a court order the day before, which saw Immigration Minister Alex Hawke revoke the 9-time Australian Open champion’s visa.
Hawke quoted Djokovic “high level status and role model position” while arguing that his “Continued presence in Australia may foster…disregard of precautionary requirements after receipt of positive Covid-19 test” as he defended his decision to cancel the player’s visa.
“I consider that the continued presence of Mr Djokovic in Australia may lead to an increase in anti-vaccination sentiment generated in the Australian community, potentially leading to an increase in civil unrest of the type that has been experienced previously in Australia. with gatherings and demonstrations which can themselves be a source of community transmission”, Hawke added.
Initially traveling below to take part in the Australian Open scheduled for Monday, Djokovic was refused entry to the country last week despite receiving a medical exemption for a coronavirus vaccination from Tennis Australia. This time, Australian border officials argued that his medical exemption was not sufficient to let him in, and his visa was revoked. Djokovich appealed the decision and asked the court to take his side, allowing him to stay in the country and train for the Australian Open. However, the reprieve was short-lived as her visa was canceled for the second time, but for different reasons, on Friday.
Responding to the new visa cancellation, Djokovic’s lawyer told Federal Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly on Friday that the Australian minister’s argument appears to be “significantly different” of that advanced by the border agents when they canceled the Serb’s visa for the first time. Hawke acknowledged Djokovic’s medical exemption was valid, but insisted his views on the Covid-19 vaccination posed a major challenge to the Australian state.
The lawyer said the argument that Djokovic’s presence at the tournament would stoke anti-vaccine sentiment is flawed because it ignores the fact that the tennis star’s potential expulsion would likely provoke a bigger backlash.
Djokovich faces a 3-year re-entry ban in Australia if he loses the legal battle. His case is expected to be heard in full in federal court on Sunday morning.
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