Novak Djokovic may have a hard time having the decision to cancel his visa overturned ahead of the start of the Australian Open in two weeks.
It’s understood Djokovic’s legal team will likely try to have an injunction put in place in the Federal Court of Australia while they assess their options.
Leading immigration lawyers tell Daily Mail Australia an injunction could allow Djokovic to stay Down Under as his legal team fights for his right to play in his favourite competition.
The entire process will be costly, and one claims it’s a sign of Djokovic’s status and privilege that he even has the means to fight the decision at all.
‘It’s only people with money and a high profile that can afford these very quick legal proceedings… They’re not easily accessible.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said the Serbian world No.1’s claim he had received a special medical exemption to fly in to Australia and defend his title was false.
‘I am advised that such an exemption was not in place, and as a result he is subject to the same rule as anyone else,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘People try to run the border all the time. People come with a visa that may not satisfy other requirements for entry – and they are put back on planes and turned back all the time.’
Novak Djokovic (pictured in Adelaide while quarantining for the 2021 Australian Open) may have a hard time having the decision to cancel his visa overturned ahead of the start of the Australian Open in two weeks – amid calls for him to explain his reasons for his vaccination exemption
Djokovic’s initial statement sparked widespread outrage given his refusal to confirm his vaccination status.
While he does not legally have to share the grounds of his alleged medical exemption, it’s understood doing so may have helped his case when entering Australia.
Medical exemptions are being approved by border force officers ‘regularly’, one source explained, adding it wouldn’t be unreasonable to assume Djokovic met the criteria to qualify for a valid exemption.
But they said if he then refused to release the grounds of said exemption – particularly to officials at the border – ‘therein lies the problem’.
Upon touching down in Melbourne about 11.30pm on Wednesday, the outspoken vaccine critic was whisked away and interrogated by immigration officials.
By Thursday morning, Australian border force officials confirmed his visa had been cancelled.
Initial reports suggested the visa he was granted did not allow medical exemptions for the unvaccinated, but Mr Morrison later confirmed that regardless, no exemption was in place.
Djokovic’s exemption to play the Australian Open while unvaccinated was reportedly awarded because he has already been struck down Covid.
But that policy usually only applies to people who had been infected in the last six months. Djokovic contracted Covid in June 2020 shortly after he hosted a number of players in an exhibition tournament in south-east Europe.
Upon touching down in Melbourne about 11.30pm on Wednesday, the outspoken vaccine critic was whisked away and interrogated by immigration officials. By Thursday morning, Australian border force officials confirmed his visa had been cancelled
Novak Djokovic will be on a flight out of Australia tonight if he cannot successfully apply to stay
Immediately, Djokovic’s team indicated they would fight the decision in court, but some say it might prove more difficult than they expect.
If he’s deported from Australia, there’s a potential he could be excluded for three years
Professor of Public Law Mary Crock
The Serbian tennis star is expected to leave Australia later on Thursday unless his team successfully apply for an injunction which would allow him to stay.
Even if he does overcome the first hurdle, there are serious doubts as to whether the process will be completed by the time the competition begins on January 17.
Professor of Public Law at University of Sydney, Mary Crock, said if Djokovic had in fact applied for the wrong visa, there is ‘limited discretion’ to grant a new visa at the border.
‘And if a visa has been cancelled, the consequences of that are very long term – both for Australia and any other country he enters, because you are always asked ”have you been deported or excluded”,’ she said.
‘If he’s deported from Australia, there’s a potential he could be excluded for three years.’
She further said it could be legally challenging to fight the decision in the Federal Court.
‘His visa will have been cancelled either on the basis that he didn’t meet the entry requirements, or he made some false statement,’ she said.
‘He doesn’t have the right to appeal on the merits of anything – he can’t say ”I’m the best tennis player, let me in”.’
Instead, the onus will be on Djokovic’s lawyers to prove the cancellation of his visa was a ‘legal error’.
Novak Djokovic was caught up in a late night visa bungle as he touched down in Melbourne late on Wednesday night. By Thursday morning, his visa had been cancelled
It’s understood Djokovic’s legal team will likely try to have an injunction put in place in the Federal Court of Australia while they assess their options
Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Djokovic’s visa had been cancelled on Thursday morning.
‘Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules,’ Mr Morrison wrote on Twitter.
‘Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant.’
He’d earlier vowed to put Djokovic ‘on the next plane home’ if he couldn’t provide acceptable proof of his medical exemption.
‘The circumstances are not unique. The issue is whether he has sufficient evidence to support that he would qualify for the exemption.’
Health Minister Greg Hunt also confirmed the visa cancellation, and Border Force issued a statement to that effect.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Thursday said the Serbian world No.1’s claim he had received a special medical exemption to fly in to Australia and defend his title was false
‘The ABF can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.
‘Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia.’
Officials denied claims he had no access to his phone during the detention period.
The world number one touched down on an Emirates flight from Dubai about 11.30pm Wednesday AEST, just 24 hours after he confirmed he would play in the Australian Open.
He never made it past the passport checkpoint and was whisked into an isolated room under police guard, where he remained for at least several hours.
Djokovic’s coach, former tennis star Goran Ivanisevic, and support staff were swiftly processed through immigration, but stayed at the airport while he was questioned.
Djokovic’s coach Goran Ivanisevic (pictured with physiotherapist Ulises Badio) has taken to social media to give fans a small insight into the team’s predicament
Novak’s father Srdjan told a Serbian radio station that the star was ‘isolated in a room’ at the airport and warned protesters would gather on the streets if border officials didn’t make a decision in the next half hour
His father Srdjan confirmed to a Serbian radio station that the star was ‘isolated in a room’ at the airport with his support staff banned from entering and without access to a mobile phone, even claiming he was under ‘police guard’.
‘Novak is currently in a room which no one can enter,’ he told the B92 internet portal. ‘In front of the room are two policemen.’
Mr Djokovic Snr warned protesters would gather on the Serbian streets if border officials didn’t make a decision in the next half hour.
‘I have no idea what’s going on, they’re holding my son captive for five hours,’ he said. ‘This is not a fight for the libertarian world, this is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world.
‘If they don’t let him go in half an hour, we will gather on the street, this is a fight for everybody.’
By early morning a flag-waving Serbian fan was at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport to send support to the superstar player as he awaits his fate.
Leading immigration lawyers tell Daily Mail Australia an injunction could allow Djokovic to stay Down Under as his legal team fights for his right to play in his favourite competitio (pictured with his wife)
A Serbian fan has rushed to Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport with flag in hand to send support to the superstar player as he awaits his fate in an isolated room (pictured)
Djokovic’s declaration to the world that he was on his way to Australia sparked an outpouring of anger on a day the nation identified a record 64,770 new Covid cases
Border Force officials learned while Djokovic was in the air that he would be trying to enter the country on a visa that doesn’t permit medical exemptions for the unvaccinated, sources said.
As a result, they contacted the Victorian Government late on Wednesday night to ask it to formally help facilitate his entry into the country – but this was rejected.
Acting sports minister Jaala Pulford said the state government would not support the application.
‘The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia,’ Ms Pulford tweeted at 11.14pm.
Acting sports minister Jaala Pulford announced late Wednesday night that the Victorian government would not support the visa application submitted
‘We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.
‘We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions a matter for doctors.’
One source later told Daily Mail Australia: ‘If they were prepared to support it, I think the outcome with Border Force may have been very different.’
The Victorian Government was asked to support his application because the state government works with Tennis Australia to run the Open, the event that his visa would allow him to work at.
The federal government therefore wanted Victoria to formally back his entry, something the state government claimed was not in their jurisdiction.
The ABF later released a statement denying they’d asked the state government to support the application.
Later it emerged there were also issues with the exemption itself, and not just that he had arrived on the wrong visa.
Tennis great Rod Laver, after whom centre court at the Australian Open is named, called on Djokovic to ‘own up’ to the reason for his exemption or face hostility from spectators.
‘If he’s got a reason for (the exemption) then… we should know it,’ the 11-time grand slam winner told News Corp.
‘Yes, you’re a great player and you’ve performed and won so many tournaments, so, it can’t be physical. So what is the problem?’
If he doesn’t, Djokovic should expect hostility from fans every time he walks onto the court in a city which has spent than 260 days in lockdown since early 2020.
‘I think it might get ugly,’ Laver said. ‘I would think the Victorian people would be thinking ”yes I would love to see him play and compete but at the same time, there’s a right way and a wrong way”.’
Everyone entering Australia – even its own citizens – must be fully-vaccinated against Covid or face two weeks in hotel quarantine.
Former Australian tennis star Sam Groth, who is recovering from Covid-19, described Djokovic’s ‘brazen’ exemption as a decision that ‘spits in the face of every Victorian and Australian’ in a strongly-worded column for News Corp.
‘Just look at the s**t storm he’s created. It’s disrespectful to everyone that has endured the hell of the last two years.
‘He was here last year lifting the trophy and paying tribute to what Victorians in particular had endured. He played in empty stadiums during the snap lockdown. His announcement on Tuesday was tone deaf. He should know better,’ he wrote.
Groth also accused Djokovic of hiding behind an exemption without explanation.
‘I still think Djokovic is one of the greatest ever but with greatness comes expectation and he fails every time. He is failing his peers and laughing in the face of Victorians,’ he wrote.
Djokovic, a nine-time Australian Open, champion has refused to reveal his vaccination status, declaring it a private matter – and has previously voiced his displeasure against ‘forced’ jabs.
A day before he arrivd, Novak Djokovic announced to the world he was on his way to Australia after being granted an exemption (pictured, the photo he used to accompany his social media announcement)
‘I wouldn’t want to be forced by someone to take a vaccine in order to be able to travel,’ he told fans in a live Facebook chat last April.
Tennis Australia chief executive Craig Tiley said the independent panel that awarded the exemption consisted of doctors from the fields of immunology, infectious disease and general practice.
He insisted all exemptions met conditions set out by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation as he came out in defence of the controversial decision.
‘It’s ultimately the decision of the medical experts and we follow that accordingly,’ Tiley said.
‘We completely understand and empathise with… people being upset about the fact that Novak has come in because of his statements over the past couple of years around vaccination.’
Novak Djokovic (with wife Jelena) will be sent on the first plane home if he can’t provide evidence to support his vaccination exemption, Scott Morrison has said
Tiley acknowledged questions will be asked about the exemption and the only person who can answer them is Djokovic.
‘It’ll certainly be helpful if Novak was to explain the conditions in which he’s sought an exemption… but ultimately it’s up to him,’ he said.
All players and spectators at the Australian Open, which begins on January 17, need to be vaccinated or secure an exemption like Djokovic, which is assessed by an independent panel of experts.
Djokovic will surpass Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal as with the most Grand Slam wins in the sport’s history if he wins his tenth Australian Open title on January 30, taking his tally of Grand Slam titles to 21.