Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke has canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa saying the world tennis number one, who is unvaccinated against COVID-19, may pose a risk to the community.
This is the second time Australia is canceling his visa. The minister used “the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.”
The decision raises the prospect of a second court battle by the Serbian tennis star to be allowed to stay and bid for a record 21st major tennis title at the Australian Open, but time is running out with the tournament starting on Monday.
“Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” Hawke said in a statement.
Under the section of the Migration Act which the minister used to exercise his power to cancel the visa, Djokovic would not be able to secure a visa to come to Australia for three years, except in compelling circumstances that affect Australia’s interest.
Djokovic, the Australian Open defending champion, was included in the draw on January 13, 2022, as the top seed and was due to face fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic for his opening match, probably on Monday or Tuesday.
The saga has intensified the global debate over rights of choice for vaccines, raised questions over Australia’s bungled handling of Djokovic’s visa and become a tricky issue for Prime Minister Scott Morrison as he campaigns for re-election.
The second cancellation is the latest twist in a saga that has garnered global headlines and put Australia’s Covid and immigration policies under scrutiny.
Under current Australian laws, all international arrivals are required to be vaccinated against Covid-19 which Djokovic is not unless they have a medical exemption.
Djokovic said he was under the impression he could enter because two independent panels associated with Tennis Australia and the Victorian state government had granted him an exemption on the grounds that he had been infected with Covid-19 in December. The federal government argued that under its rules previous infection with Covid-19 is not a valid reason for an exemption.
Australia has endured some of the world’s longest lockdowns, has a 90% vaccination rate among adults, and has seen a runaway Omicron outbreak bring nearly a million cases in the last two weeks.