Australia responds to Novak Djokovic: No one guarantees entry

The Australian government has responded strongly to tennis star Novak Djokovic’s assertion that he has been given a medical exemption from the requirements for a coronavirus vaccine, indicating in court papers filed on Sunday that no foreigner has a guaranteed right to enter the country.

In a court filing, the government said: «There is no such thing as confirmation of entry to Australia by a non-national. There are criteria and conditions for entry and grounds for refusal or cancellation of a visa.» Hearing of the case on Monday.

World number one Djokovic is hoping to win his 21st Grand Slam title at the Australian Open, which kicks off in Melbourne on January 17.

However, instead of training, the Serbian player was booked into a hotel used for asylum seekers and defied the decision to revoke his visa after being stopped on arrival at Melbourne airport early Thursday.

Djokovic, an outspoken opponent of Covid-19 vaccines, said in a court filing on Saturday that he was granted an exemption from vaccination because he contracted the virus in December.

His lawyers said he had the necessary permits to enter Australia, including an assessment from the Department of Home Affairs that responses to the travel authorization form indicated he met the conditions for arrival without quarantine.

The government opposed this. She said that the ministry’s email was not a confirmation that «the so-called ‘medical exemption’ has been accepted, and his responses can be questioned and verified upon arrival.»

The government has also challenged Djokovic’s claim for a medical exemption on the grounds that he contracted Covid-19 in mid-December and recovered two weeks later.

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«There is no indication that the applicant was suffering from ‘acute critical medical illness’ in December 2021,» the lawsuit said. «All he has said is that he tested positive for Covid-19. This is not the same,» the lawsuit said.

The French newspaper L’Equipe published a picture of the player taken when he was chosen as the Daily Champion in the days following his declaration in court that he had contracted the Corona virus on December 16. Other photos posted on social media showed him appearing at events in Serbia on dates shortly after the audition.

It was not clear whether Djokovic was aware of his positive test at the time of the events in the photos.

Djokovic, 34, has won the Australian Open nine times, and the drama about his refusal to enter has caused an uproar in sports circles, raised tensions between Serbia and Australia and became a flashpoint for anti-vaccine opponents around the world.

Djokovic’s lawyers will have up to two hours to present their case from 10 a.m. on Monday, while the government department will have two hours to present their defense from 3 p.m. The case is heard by the Federal Circuit and Family Court.

World No. 1 is a non-citizen

The government’s lawsuit asserted on Sunday that even if the court ruled to release Djokovic from detention and allow him to play the Open, under Australian law, the government has every right to detain him again and remove him from the country because he is not a citizen. .

That drew particular ire from Djokovic’s father, who threw another small protest in front of the Serbian parliament building in Belgrade on Sunday.

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«Politicians are now saying that even if the court decides he can play, they can detain him again under their laws,» said Srjan Djokovic.

«Are we animals? What are we? We are human. It happens because we are just a small part of the world, but we are proud. They don’t respect it.»

Australia says the Department of Health notified the tournament’s organizing body, Tennis Australia, in November that the recent COVID-19 infection was not necessarily the basis for an exemption in the country, as it is elsewhere.

However, Djokovic’s lawsuit says the Ministry of Internal Affairs wrote to him this month to say he met the requirements to enter the country.

tennis australia

Tennis Australia’s chief executive, Craig Tilley, said in his first media interview since the uproar began that his organization had been speaking with federal and state officials for several months to ensure safe passage for players.

«Primarily because there was a lot of contradictory information all the time, and every week we were talking about internal affairs, we were talking to all parts of the government to ensure … that we were doing the right thing and (following)» Tilley told Channel Nine TV.

«The conflicting information we received was due to the changing environment. We are in a challenging environment.»

Asked about the matter on Channel Nine TV, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said without referring directly to Djokovic that «there is a clear difference between visas and entry requirements» and «entry requirements … sitting above visa requirements».

Czech player Renata Vorakova, who was held in the same detention hotel with Djokovic and had her visa revoked after problems with her vaccination exemption, left the country without challenging her status, the Czech Foreign Ministry said.

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Djokovic had a strong backing inside. Serbian Prime Minister Anna Brnabic said on Saturday he was given gluten-free food, exercise equipment and a SIM card to stay connected to the outside world. – Reuters

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