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Novak Djokovic: Emergency hearing as tennis player’s visa cancelled by Australia again

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 14/01/2022 Tristan Kirk,Daniel Keane and Sarah Harvey
novakdjokovic140122 © AFP via Getty Images novakdjokovic140122

Novak Djokovic is set to be detained by immigration officers from 8am on Saturday until his legal battle with the Australian government is resolved.

The tennis world number one is due to meet with Border Force agents after the immigration minister Alex Hawke cancelled his visa to play in the Australian Open.

Djokovic is appealing the decision, and Judge Anthony Kelly on Friday made a series of orders to try to have the case dealt with this weekend before the start of the Grand Slam tournament.

He said the player would be detained from 8am on Saturday when he presents himself to the authorities for an interview, and can speak with his lawyers while under the guard of Border Force agents.

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Djokovic is now expected to be held in custody in Saturday night, ahead of a possible court hearing on Sunday to determine the appeal.

Judge Kelly is sending the case to be dealt with by the Federal Court of Australia, after the government promised not to try to deport Djokovic until legal proceedings have concluded.

Nick Wood, for Djokovic, raised fears of a “media circus” tomorrow when the player is detained, at a location already revealed in open court, and the judge expressed frustration that security fears were being raised so late in the day.

“Don’t put this at my feet”, he said.

The location of Djokovic’s detention may now be changed, subject to discussions between the two sides.

Mr Djokovic’s legal team confirmed they would fight the decision to revoke his visa and would full a file argument within an hour. Nick Wood SC, representing the tennis star, said he faced a race against time to appeal the decision ahead of the beginning of the tournament on Monday.

Mr Wood said the decision to deport had been based on Djokovic’s continued presence in the country causing “excitement in the anti-vaxx community”.


Video: Tennis fans protest outside Novak Djokovic's detention hotel (Evening Standard)

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Djokovic will be allowed to meet with his lawyers while under the guard of Border Force agents, the court heard, before being taken back into custody on Saturday night.

The world number one’s visa was first revoked shortly after his arrival in Melbourne on January 6, after Australian border Force officials said he had “failed to provide appropriate evidence” to receive a vaccine exemption.

There was also enormous backlash from the Australian public, who have lived under some of the world’s strictest Covid restrictions.

Djokovic was detained and spent hours at immigration control and then days at an immigration hotel, while supporters loudly protested outside.

On Monday, Australian Judge Anthony Kelly ruled that Djokovic’s visa cancellation order be “quashed” immediately and the tennis star be released from hotel quarantine within 30 minutes of his decision.

Judge Kelly noted Djokovic had provided officials at Melbourne’s airport with a medical exemption given him by Tennis Australia, which is organising the tournament that starts on January 17, and two medical panels.

“The point I’m somewhat agitated about is what more could this man have done?” Kelly asked Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood during the hearing.

However, Mr Hawke cancelled Djokovic’s visa under separate powers in Australia’s Migration Act.

The act allows him to deport anyone he deems a potential risk to “the health, safety or good order of the Australian community”, however Djokovic can still appeal this.

Melbourne-based immigration lawyer Kian Bone said Djokovic’s lawyers faced an “extremely difficult” task to get court orders over the weekend to allow their client to play next week.

“For Djokovic to get the outcomes he needs to play would be extremely difficult to obtain over the weekend,” Bone said.

Hawke’s delay in reaching a decision bordered on punitive, Bone said.

“If you left it any later than he has done now, I think from a strategic standpoint he’s (Hawke’s) really hamstringing Djokovic’s legal team, in terms of what sort of options or remedies he could obtain,” Bone said hours before the decision was announced.

The lawyers would need to go before a duty judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court or a higher judge of the Federal Court to get two urgent orders.

One order would be an injunction preventing his deportation, like the order he gained last week. The second would order Hawke to grant Djokovic a visa to play.

“That second order is almost not precedented,” Bone said. “Very rarely do the courts order a member of the executive government to grant a visa.”

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