Novak Djokovic has been included in the Australian Open draw – but he’s still waiting to see if he can stay in the country.
All eyes are now on Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who must decide to expel the tennis star, overturning a judge’s ruling who said Djokovic could stay in Australia despite questions about his exemption the COVID-19 vaccination rules.
It is a decision which has legal, political, sporting and diplomatic consequences.
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How did we get here?
Australia has strict rules requiring vaccination against the coronavirus to enter the country. Djokovic’s case is whether he had a valid exemption from these rules.
His lawyers have argued that since he had COVID-19 in December, he has. The Victorian government and Tennis Australia approved this exemption, apparently allowing him to receive a visa to travel.
But lawyers for the federal government have argued that an infection is only grounds for exemption in cases where the coronavirus has caused serious illness.
It is not known why he got a visa if that is the case. Tennis Australia complained that the exemption guidelines were confusing and changed frequently.
Australian border forces revoked Djokovic’s visa on his arrival. They placed him in a migrant detention hotel and intended to deport him.
But when the case went to a judge, he ruled in favor of Djokovic – for procedural reasons – claiming the tennis player had not had enough time to consult his lawyers at the border.
What is happening now?
Mr Hawke’s office will review the initial decision to grant Djokovic a visa.
It will also take into account that Djokovic’s travel declaration form contains errors. The tennis player admitted on social media on Wednesday that the form incorrectly stated that he had not traveled for 14 days before arriving in Australia.
Djokovic blamed “human error” on his support team and said it was not on purpose.
The Minister of Immigration has significant discretion in this matter and can again revoke Djokovic’s visa and deport him for reasons of public health, morality and various other reasons.
During his deliberations on the Djokovic case, Mr. Hawke is said to have separated his office from other parts of the government to avoid any impression of political interference.
Woodbridge takes stock of Djokovic
What happens if the minister revokes his visa again?
Djokovic’s lawyers should immediately seek an injunction. That would send the case back to court, and it could take some time to unfold.
That could mean he’s able to compete in the Australian Open in the meantime – trying to win a record-breaking 21st Grand Slam title. Tournament organizers included him in the draw on Thursday, and he is set to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic next week.
But Djokovic may also have to return to a detention center during court proceedings.
If he is ultimately deported, he may not be able to reapply for an Australian visa for three years. Djokovic is 34 years old and such a hiatus could mean he won’t have another shot at winning the Australian title.
What is it that he doesn’t isolate himself after being infected?
It’s unclear if this would affect his Australian visa, but Djokovic was in public after his positive coronavirus test.
In his statement on Wednesday, Djokovic admitted to having set a date for an interview in December with the French newspaper. The team after learning he was positive, claiming he kept his distance from reporters and was masked except during a photoshoot.
The writer who interviewed him said he had since tested negative; he didn’t mention the photographer.
Djokovic said he granted the interview because he “didn’t want to let the reporter down” but admitted it was “an error in judgment”.
After the interview, he said he followed the isolation rules. At the time, Serbia required people infected with COVID-19 to self-isolate for at least 14 days. But Djokovic was seen just over a week after testing positive on the streets of Belgrade, although he said he had tested negative in the meantime.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has indicated that his government will take a stand once it has all the facts about Djokovic’s whereabouts during the period of isolation, but he has yet to react publicly.
How do people feel about it?
Public support appears to have fluctuated for Djokovic during the drama.
The initial decision to grant the unvaccinated star an exemption sparked an uproar. Many felt Djokovic received special treatment as Australians faced nearly two years of strict border controls during the pandemic.
Some have also looked with suspicion at the idea of allowing a prominent vaccine skeptic to cross the border into a country in which 91.3% of people aged 16 and over are vaccinated.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce summed up this discontent.
“The vast majority of Australians … did not like the idea that another individual, be it a tennis player or … the King of Spain or the Queen of England, can come here and have a different set of rules that everyone has to deal with, ”Joyce said.
But this drama had a lot of twists and turns.
Public sympathy turned a bit in Djokovic’s favor when he was held for four days in an immigrant detention hotel. And when the Federal Circuit Court ruled in its favor, concerns were raised about the mismanagement of visa cancellation that painted Australia in a bad light.
More recent revelations about Djokovic’s behavior after he tested positive may have once again tilted the pendulum against him.
Back in his native Serbia, many rallied alongside Djokovic, especially the country’s politicians.
What is the policy of this?
When news broke last week that Djokovic had been detained at the border and his visa had been canceled, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quick to adopt the decision.
The Morrison government had been under pressure as the Omicron variant swept across the country, raising questions about its recent strategy to ease restrictions. He may have sensed a political victory in a decision that made him tough on immigration. He has had less to say since the court overturned Djokovic’s visa cancellation, allowing the legal process to unfold.
Labor leader Anthony Albanese has been scathing in his criticism of the government.
“It has been devilish for Australia’s reputation, just in terms of competence here and it is extraordinary that as we speak we still do not know what the decision will be,” Mr Albanese said.
“The decision should have been made before he got a visa. Either he was eligible or he was not.
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