World number one men’s tennis player Novak Djokovic should be deported from Australia if he has not told the truth about his exemption from vaccination rules, the deputy prime minister says.
According to Barnaby Joyce of the BBC, wealthy people “can’t go around the world thinking they’re above the law.”
Djokovic, who travelled to Australia to compete in the Australian Open, is being held in immigration detention after his entry was denied.
On Monday, a court will decide whether he should be deported.
The 34-year-old Serbian player, who has stated his opposition to vaccination, was granted a medical exemption to compete in the tournament in Melbourne for unspecified reasons, which infuriated many Australians.
The exemption was granted by two independent medical panels organised by Tennis Australia, the event’s governing body, and Victoria state, according to tournament organisers.
However, Australian Border Force (ABF) officials stated on Wednesday that Djokovic had “failed to provide appropriate evidence” for entry after arriving from Dubai. He is being held at a hotel in a Melbourne suburb that is used for immigration detention.
“If he hasn’t filled out the forms properly, he’s taking another nation’s sovereign capacity for a joke,” Mr Joyce said on the BBC’s Newshour. “100% someone has made a mistake, and if he hasn’t told the truth, then Mr Djokovic has made the mistake.”
“You can’t just go around the world thinking that because you’re really rich, you’re really above the laws of other countries,” he added.
Djokovic’s team has filed an appeal against ABF’s decision, and a hearing at the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia is set for Monday. It is unknown whether Djokovic will stay in the same hotel until then.
Earlier, Prime Minister Scott Morrison denied that Djokovic was singled out, saying that no one was above the law in Australia. Though Djokovic’s reason for the exemption has not been revealed, Mr Morrison stated that contracting Covid-19 in the previous six months was not one of the federal criteria for one.
Initially, Mr Morrison stated that he accepted the Victorian government’s decision to grant Djokovic and other tennis players medical exemptions.
In the midst of the massive public backlash, he is now being accused of politicising the issue. The prime minister is under pressure as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country, and a federal election is scheduled for May.
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Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic defended Djokovic, saying he was a victim of “harassment” and that “the entire Serbia” supported him. Mr Morrison denied that the visa was revoked because of “any particular position in relation to Serbia.”
Srdjan, the player’s father, said his son was being held in an airport room guarded by police. “This is a fight for the entire world, not just Novak,” he said in a statement.
For hours, supporters of Novak Djokovic, many of whom are members of Melbourne’s Serbian community, gathered outside the quarantine hotel where he is believed to be staying. As songs about freedom played and some danced, the intensity of emotion was palpable. “This is a disgrace,” Kristina, draped in the Serbian flag, told me. “Today, I’m ashamed to be an Australian. I’m not going if he’s not playing.”
Jelena wore a white cap inscribed with Djokovic’s signature, which she obtained two years ago when he was in town for the tournament. She’s holding a sign that says “Thank you.” “He represents a link to my native country. The Australian government must clean up this mess. It’s a global scandal, and the entire world is watching “Jelena expressed her disappointment that he might not be competing.
Djokovic has found himself in the middle of a controversy that has transcended tennis and is now at the centre of a political squabble between state and federal authorities.
While the player and his legal team await the court hearing to resume on Monday, anger and confusion reign supreme – whether from those who believe he should not have been allowed in or those who are outraged at the prospect of him being deported.
The Australian Open has been dominated by the world number one, who has won it nine times. However, his attempt to defend his title and go for a tenth may be over before the tournament even begins.
Tennis in Spain begins. Rafael Nadal, who is in Melbourne preparing for the tournament, stated that it is “normal” for Australians to become “very frustrated with the case.”
“The only clear thing for me is that if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open,” he said, adding, “Of course, after a lot of people died for two years, my feeling is [that] the vaccine is the only way to stop this pandemic.”
Former Australian Open tournament director Paul McNamee, however, told local media that the visa reversal was unprecedented and “smells” of politics.
According to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, two other players’ medical exemptions were being reviewed. Mr Morrison stated that the ABF had previously informed Tennis Australia of visa expectations.
The Australian Open starts on January 17th. Djokovic has won the tournament nine times before.