By Akinwande Soji-Ojo
Australia has cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time, the country’s Immigration Minister announced on Friday.
Officials said the world tennis No. 1, who is unvaccinated for COVID-19, may pose a risk to the community.
The cancellation means Djokovic would be barred from a new Australian visa for three years, except under certain circumstances.
Immigration Minister, Alex Hawke, used discretionary powers to again cancel Djokovic’s visa, after a court quashed an earlier revocation and released him from immigration detention on Monday.
“Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr 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.
“This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds.
“In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic.
“The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Hawke added.
Hawke’s decision comes just three days before the start of the Australian Open where Djokovic had hoped to become the most successful male player of all time.
It will likely result in another round of court action by the 34-year-old Serb who has already won the Open nine times, and throw the grand slam tournament into further disarray.
However, legal experts say it would be difficult, if not impossible for Djokovic to successfully challenge a visa cancellation decision made personally by the Immigration Minister.
Djokovic could be held in detention in Melbourne while the Open goes on without the world’s top ranked player, creating a nightmare scenario for Tennis Australia.
The tennis star was facing mounting criticism for his actions, including from other tennis players set to take part in the Australian Open next week.
Greek world number four, Stefanos Tsitsipas, said Djokovic was “playing by his own rules” and making vaccinated players “look like fools.*
“No-one really thought they could come to Australia unvaccinated and not having to follow the protocols … it takes a lot of daring to do and putting the grand slam at risk, which I don’t think many players would do,” Tsitsipas said in an interview with India’s WION news channel.
An online poll by the News Corp media group found that 83 percent favoured the government trying to deport the tennis star.
Calls for Djokovic to be deported increased after inconsistencies emerged between his sworn evidence on immigration documents and social media posts.
Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, was denied a visa to enter Australia on January 6 by a Border Force official but that decision was overturned by the Federal Circuit Court on Monday.
He has since admitted providing false information on his travel entry form, which incorrectly claimed he had not travelled in the 14 days before his arrival in Melbourne, despite visiting Spain.
Djokovic has also conceded he breached Serbia’s isolation rules after learning he had tested positive to the virus on December 16.
Djokovic said he had been interviewed in person by a French newspaper while infected with COVID-19, and blamed his agent for the “administrative error” on his travel entry form.
The discrepancies emerged after Djokovic issued a lengthy Instagram statement on Wednesday to clarify “misinformation” about his movements while being COVID-19 positive.
“I want to address the continuing misinformation about my activities and attendance at events in December in the lead-up to my positive Covid test result.
“I want to emphasise that I have tried very hard to ensure the safety of everyone and my compliance with testing obligations,” The tennis star had said.