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Novak Djokovic Wins Appeal Against Visa Cancellation

Novak Djokovic Wins Appeal Against Visa Cancellation

A court in Australia has ordered that Novak Djokovic be released from immigration detention after quashing his visa cancellation by the authorities over his vaccination status.

The decision paves the way for the tennis star to be released, however the authorities have signalled they may intervene and move to reimpose the visa ban.

The 34-year-old — who is not vaccinated against COVID-19 — has been fighting deportation to defend his title in Melbourne and win a record 21st Grand Slam title in the Australian Open which begins in a week's time. Much uncertainty still surrounds the case and the decision does not yet mean for sure that the top-ranked Serb will be free to compete.

Circuit Court Judge Anthony Kelly also ordered the government on Monday to release Djokovic from Melbourne hotel quarantine within 30 minutes of his decision. The player's lawyers had alleged procedural irregularities.

But government lawyer Christopher Tran told the judge after the ruling that the immigration minister Alex Hawke “will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancellation.” That would mean mean Djokovic could again face deportation and could miss the Australian Open. During the court hearing on Monday, Judge Kelly questioned what more Djokovic could have done to meet Australia's coronavirus entry requirements.

To enter Australia, travellers must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or have an exemption with a genuine medical reason. The judge noted that Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne’s airport with a medical exemption given him by Tennis Australia, which is organising the tournament, and two medical panels. “The point I’m somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?” Kelly asked Djokovic’s lawyer.

The player's visa was cancelled shortly after he arrived in Melbourne late on Wednesday because officials decided he didn’t meet the criteria for an exemption. Djokovic argued he did not need proof of vaccination because he had evidence that he had been infected with the coronavirus last month. Australian medical authorities have ruled that a temporary exemption for the vaccination rule can be provided to people who have been infected with COVID-19 within six months.

His lawyers said Djokovic's first positive COVID-19 PCR test was on December 16. But photos posted on social media appear to show Djokovic at an event in Belgrade with young Serbian tennis players the following day.

 

Djokovic's lawyers submitted 11 grounds for appeal against his visa cancellation. The lawyers described the cancellation as “seriously illogical,” irrational and legally unreasonable. Transcripts of Djokovic's interview with Border Force officials and his own affidavit revealed a “repeated appeal to the officers with which he was dealing that to his understanding, uncontradicted, he had done absolutely everything that he understood was required in order for him to enter Australia,” said Djokovic's lawyer, Nick Wood.

Lawyers for Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews also made their submissions on why Djokovic should be deported. He has been under guard in hotel quarantine in Melbourne since Thursday, when his visa was cancelled. But the judge ordered that the world No. 1-ranked tennis player be released from hotel quarantine during his court hearing.

It was not clear where Djokovic relocated to during his hearing. He did not appear on screen in the first hours of the virtual hearing. The virtual hearing crashed several times because of an overwhelming number of people from around the world trying to watch the proceedings.

The five-day saga has made headlines worldwide, with the confusion over Djokovic's status an embarrassment for the Australian authorities. People have been alternately outraged by the initial apparent favourable treatment shown to the star in giving him a vaccination exemption, but also by his confinement in a detention hotel. Djokovic is a nine-time Australian Open champion. He has 20 Grand Slam singles titles, a men’s record he shares with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

 

Source: Euronews

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