Novak Djokovic: Free, But

ON Monday, an Australian court ordered the country’s immigration to let go of tennis superstar, Novak Djokovic, one week after his arrival. The verdict ended a legal Standoff between the country and Serbia import over Covid-19 vaccination dispute and literally offered the sportsman a lifeline, more or less, just so he could participate in the Australian Open which he is defending.

The court ruled that the country’s decision to cancel his visa is illegal. However, despite the ruling reprieve, there are indications that his freedom may be short-lived as the country’s interior minister made it known that he could employ his discretional powers to, once more, detain the star and send him out of Australia.

Reports ascribed to Immigration minister, Alex Hawk, have it that the minister himself, is not satisfied with the ruling and has vowed to cancel Djokovic’s visa.

In line with due process, Minister Hawk will thoroughly consider the matter. As the issue is ongoing, for legal reasons it is inappropriate to comment further,” his spokesperson volunteered.

The minister’s decision is not unconnected to Australia’s immigration policy which bars non-citizens or non-residents from entering the country unless they are fully vaccinated against Covid-19. However, it allows for medical exemptions which, incidentally, Djokovic has except that, according to arguments by government, those purportedly exempted, like the Serbian, must provide adequate justification.

The court ruling seems to suggest he has. It ruled that Djokovic was unfairly treated by border force officials on his arrival and so ordered his visa cancellation overturned without adding that his exemption, following his Covid-19 last month, was valid.

Incidentally, Djokovic’s standoff with Australian authorities drew the ire of his country’s home government, fuelling animated debates over mandatory vaccination policies, so much so that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison had a telephone discussion with his Serbian counterpart, Ana Brnabic on Monday to explain Australia’s “non-discriminatory border policy.”

Though details of the discussion was not available, reports say the duo agreed to stay in contact on the issue even as Brnabic reportedly insisted on the need for Djokovic to ably prepare for the tournament.

Border officials detained Djokovic at the Melbourne’s airport late Wednesday and subsequently cancelled his visa on the ground that he could not provide satisfactory evidence to meet the Australia’s entry requirements. While ruling against the move, the presiding judge, Anthony Kelly, was particularly critical of his long hours of interview at the airport, noting that he was not been given enough time to contact lawyers and tennis officials to discuss his predicament.

Victoria state government is said to have granted Djokovic a medical exemption following available evidence that he contracted Covid-19 last month, his second infection. However, media reports in the country indicate that the country’s Border Force was investigating potential in his traveller form and whereabouts in the days leading to his arrival in the country.

Djokovic is opposed to mandatory vaccination and has confirmed he is unvaccinated.

Credit: Reuters

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