WELLINGTON, New Zealand – Novak Djokovic has been included in the Australian Open draw – but is still waiting to see if he can stay in the country.
All eyes are now on Immigration Minister Alex Hawke, who must decide whether to leave the tennis star, effectively overturning a judge’s decision who said Djokovic could remain in Australia despite questions about his exemption from COVID-19 vaccination rules.
It is a decision that has legal, political, sporting and diplomatic consequences.
How did we get here?
Australia has strict rules that require a coronavirus vaccination to enter the country. Djokovic’s case revolves around whether he has a valid exemption from those rules.
His lawyers have argued that since he contracted COVID-19 in December, he has done so. The state government of Victoria and Tennis Australia, the tournament’s organiser, agreed to the exemption, apparently allowing him to obtain a visa to travel.
But federal government lawyers have argued that infection is only grounds for exemption in cases where the coronavirus has caused serious illness.
It is not clear why the visa was issued to him if that was the case. The Australian Tennis Organization has complained that the guidelines for exemptions have been confusing and have changed frequently.
The Australian Border Force canceled Djokovic’s visa on arrival. They put him in an immigration detention hotel and were planning to deport him.
But when the case was brought before a judge, he ruled in Djokovic’s favour – on procedural reasons, saying the tennis player didn’t get enough time to consult with his lawyer at the border.
what is happening now?
Hook’s office will consider the original decision to grant Djokovic a visa.
You are also likely to take into account the fact that Djokovic’s travel authorization form contains errors. The tennis player admitted Wednesday on social media that the model incorrectly says he has not traveled in the 14 days before arriving in Australia.
Djokovic blamed “human error” by his support team and said it was not intentional.
The Immigration Minister has great discretion in this matter and can revoke Djokovic’s visa and deport him for public health or personal reasons and a variety of other reasons.
While deliberating on the Djokovic case, Hook was said to have separated his office from other parts of the government to avoid any impression of political interference.
What happens if Australia refuses her visa again?
Djokovic’s lawyers are expected to immediately seek an injunction. This would bring the case back to the federal court, and that could take some time to finish.
That could mean he can compete at the Australian Open in the meantime – in a bid to win his 21st Grand Slam title. The tournament organizers included him in the draw on Thursday, and he is scheduled to play fellow Serbian Miomir Kekmanovic next week.
But Djokovic may also have to return to the detention facility during legal proceedings.
If he is eventually deported, he may not be able to apply for a three-year Australian visa. Djokovic is 34 years old, and this gap could mean he won’t have another chance to win the Australian title.
What is inseparable from it after it becomes infected?
It is not clear if this will affect his Australian visa, but Djokovic has come out in public after testing positive for coronavirus.
In his statement on Wednesday, Djokovic admitted he had reserved an interview in December with French newspaper L’Equipe after learning he tested positive – saying he kept his distance from reporters and was masked, except while taking a photo. The writer who interviewed him said the test result has since been negative; The photographer was not mentioned.
Djokovic said he went ahead with the interview because he “didn’t want to let the journalist down” but admitted it was a “miscalculation”.
After the interview, he said he followed the rules of isolation. At the time, Serbia asked those infected with COVID-19 to isolate them for at least 14 days. But Djokovic was seen just over a week after he tested positive on the streets of Belgrade, although he said he tested negative in between.
Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabic has indicated that her government will take a stand once it has all the facts about Djokovic’s whereabouts during the isolation period, but she has not taken any public response yet.
How do Australians feel about this?
Public support appears to have ebbed and flowed for Djokovic during the drama.
The initial decision to grant the unvaccinated star an exemption led to an outcry. Many felt Djokovic was receiving special treatment, as Australians faced nearly two years of strict border controls during the pandemic.
Some also looked skeptically about allowing a prominent vaccine skeptic to be exempted from cross-border traffic in a country where 91.3% of the eligible population is vaccinated.
Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce summed up that discontent.
“The vast majority of Australians…didn’t like the idea that another individual, be it a tennis player or…the King of Spain or the Queen of England, could come here and have a different set of rules than everyone else does,” he said.
But this drama has seen a lot of twists and turns.
Public sympathy shifted somewhat in Djokovic’s favor when he was held for four days in an immigration detention hotel. And when the Federal Circuit Court ruled in his favour, there was concern about the mishandling of the visa cancellation which painted Australia in a bad light.
Recent revelations about Djokovic’s behavior after he tested positive may have sent the pendulum swinging against him once again.
Back in his native Serbia, many sided with Djokovic, particularly the country’s politicians.
What are the policies for this?
When news broke last week that Djokovic had been detained at the border and had his visa revoked, Prime Minister Scott Morrison was quick to adopt the decision.
Morrison’s government came under pressure as the omicron variant swept across Australia, raising questions about its latest strategy to ease restrictions. Perhaps he sensed a political victory in a decision that made him look tough on immigration. He has had little to say since the court overturned Djokovic’s visa cancellation, allowing for legal proceedings.
But Anthony Albanese, leader of the opposition Labor Party, has harshly criticized the government.
“This has been demonic to Australia’s reputation, just in terms of our competence here and so unusual that we still don’t know what the decision will be,” Albanese said. The decision should have been made before the visa was granted. Either he was qualified or he wasn’t.”