Australian Federal Court upholds cancellation of Djokovic’s visa
Novak Djokovic will be deported from Australia ahead of the Australian Open after the full Federal Court dismissed the world No 1’s bid to restore his visa.
On Sunday the court rejected a challenge to the decision of Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel the visa on the basis Djokovic’s presence in Australia might risk “civil unrest” as he is a “talisman of anti-vaccination sentiment,” the Guardian reported.
Chief Justice James Allsop announced the court unanimously dismissed Djokovic’s application, with costs to be paid by the tennis star.
Allsop explained the decision of the court did not reflect on “the merits or wisdom of the decision” but rather whether it was so irrational as to be unlawful. Full reasons will follow at a later date.
The decision is a major setback for Djokovic’s quest to win a 10th Australian Open crown and a record 21st Grand Slam title.
Djokovic’s lawyers had argued Hawke’s decision was “illogical, irrational or unreasonable” and the minister based it on Djokovic’s public statements about vaccination without actually seeking his views.
In fresh submissions overnight, Djokovic’s lawyers added that Hawke had failed to consider the impact on anti-vaccination sentiment if his visa were cancelled.
In court on Sunday, the minister’s counsel, Stephen Lloyd, argued Australia “must not be bound to suffer the presence of an alien for fear of what might happen if they were removed”.
Use of the ministerial power to cancel a visa comes with a three-year ban on re-entering Australia, except in compelling circumstances, such as compassionate or Australian national interest grounds.
Djokovic arrived in Australia on the evening of 5 January. He believed that a visa granted on 18 November and a medical exemption approved by Tennis Australia and a Victorian government independent expert panel would be sufficient to enter Australia.
Djokovic’s visa was first cancelled by Australian Border Force (ABF) hours after he arrived at Melbourne airport and he was taken to a detention hotel.
On Monday a federal circuit court judge restored Djokovic’s visa, concluding it was unreasonable for the ABF to renege on a deal to give him more time at the airport to address the exemption issue.
After a week’s deliberation, Hawke cancelled Djokovic’s visa again on Friday on the new ground that his presence might be a risk to “health and good order”.
The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, backed the cancellation decision, arguing that Australians had “made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected”.
“This is what the minister is doing in taking this action,” Morrison said in a statement on Friday.
Djokovic reacted to the verdict, saying he is “extremely disappointed” with the judges’ decision, but will not appeal the ruling.
“I will now be taking some time to rest and to recuperate, before making any further comments beyond this,” BBC quoted the Serbian as saying in a statement.
“I am extremely disappointed with the court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.
“I respect the court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.
“I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.
“I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.
“Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me.”