Australian court rejects Novak Djokovic’s appeal against deportation

Australian justice rejected Novak Djokovic’s appeal. He will soon be expelled, and thus deprived of participating in the Australian Open.

The Australian Federal Court on Sunday rejected Novak Djokovic’s appeal against his expulsion from the country, ordered by the government which considered that the world number one, not vaccinated against Covid-19, represented a “health risk”.

This decision, taken unanimously by the three judges of the Court, definitively buries the hopes of the 34-year-old Serb to conquer, during the Australian Open which begins on Monday, a record 21st Grand Slam title.

Allowed to leave the detention center where he was placed on Saturday, Novak Djokovic followed the hearing online, which lasted four hours, from the offices of his lawyers in Melbourne.

The decision of the Court, announced by its president James Allsop, is in theory impossible to contest by the player, forced to leave Australia immediately with possible long-term repercussions for his career.

In his conclusions filed Saturday before the Court, the Minister of Immigration Alex Hawke had argued that the presence of Djokovic in the country was “likely to represent a health risk”.

He said it encouraged “anti-vaccination sentiment” and could deter Australians from getting their booster shots, as the Omicron variant spreads rapidly across the country.

The presence in Australia of the champion could even “lead to an upsurge in civil unrest”, added the minister.

A “contempt” of health rules

Even if he had qualified the risk that Djokovic himself infects Australians as “negligible”, the minister had considered that his past “contempt” of the health rules against Covid constituted a bad example.

Sunday before the Court, the lawyers of “Djoko” qualified the detention of their client and his possible expulsion of “illogical”, “irrational” and “unreasonable”.

The government “doesn’t know what Mr. Djokovic’s views are right now,” lawyer Nick Wood pleaded, saying his client has never publicly supported the anti-vaccination movement.

Government lawyer Stephen Lloyd responded that the champion’s failure to be vaccinated nearly two years into the pandemic and his repeated disregard of health rules, including failing to isolate when he knew he was infected, constituted sufficient proof of his position.

Novak Djokovic had been blocked on his arrival in Australia on January 5 and placed in administrative detention for the first time.

The player, who contracted Covid-19 in December, had hoped for an exemption to enter the country without being vaccinated, but the authorities had not accepted this explanation.

The Australian government suffered a humiliating setback on January 10 when a judge blocked Djokovic’s deportation, reinstated his visa and ordered his immediate release.

But the Minister of Immigration had counterattacked on Friday and canceled his visa for the second time on Friday under his discretionary powers, citing “health and public order reasons”.

An incorrectly completed Australian entry declaration

Sunday after the hearing, Djokovic was taken back to the Park Hotel, the austere detention center for illegal immigrants now world famous, which he should now only leave to board the plane that will take him home.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the tennis player admitted to having incorrectly filled out his declaration of entry into Australia.

The player with 86 ATP titles, seen in Serbia and Spain in the two weeks before his arrival, contrary to what he declared in the immigration form upon his arrival, pleaded “human error”.

This twisty soap opera took place in a country whose inhabitants have endured for almost two years some of the strictest anti-Covid restrictions in the world, and where elections are scheduled for May.

Hence a charged political context. Pressure had intensified in recent days around Conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison, accused of “incompetence” by the Labor opposition.

The Djokovic affair is also followed assiduously in Serbia where “Nole” is considered a national hero. On Friday, President Aleksandar Vucic accused Australia of “mistreating” him.

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