Immigration Minister Alex Hawke cancels Novak Djokovic’s visa ahead of Australian Open

Novak Djokovic will not be detained or deported tonight but will have to attend an interview with immigration officials in Melbourne at 8am tomorrow, a court has heard.

The cancellation of Mr. Djokovic’s visa by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke in the late afternoon is the subject of a trial hearing in Federal Circuit and Family Court tonight.

During the hearing, the minister’s lawyer, Stephen Lloyd, said Mr Djokovic would likely be taken into custody tomorrow, after being questioned by immigration officials and meeting with his legal team.

Lawyers for Mr Djokovic said they would challenge the minister’s reasons for revoking the visa, including that allowing Mr Djokovic to stay “would stir up anti-vax sentiment” in the Australian community.

Mr Djokovic’s lawyer, Nick Wood, said the minister’s reasons were “grossly irrational” and did not believe that deporting Mr Djokovic could also stoke anti-vax sentiment.

“The minister’s reasons contrast sharply with the reasons why the [Australian Border Force] airport delegate was saying,” Mr Wood told the court.

He said the minister had in fact concluded that Mr Djokovic had complied with the law, was a person of good character and posed only a “negligible” risk to the Australian community.

Tonight’s hearing will continue after an adjournment.

Visa canceled ‘in the public interest’

Earlier, Mr Hawke said he had this time canceled the 34-year-old’s visa for ‘reasons of health and good order, on the grounds that it was in the public interest to do so’ .

“In making this decision, I have carefully considered the information provided to me by the Home Office, Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic,” he said.

“The Morrison government is strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

Mr Djokovic had requested a medical exemption to enter Australia as he is not vaccinated. In his initial request, he argued that he should be granted the vaccination exemption as he had tested positive for COVID-19 in mid-December.

Although he had obtained exemption from two different independent health commissions – one hired by Tennis Australia, the other by the Victorian government – ​​when he arrived in Melbourne late on January 5, he was detained by officials of the Australian Border Force.

A few hours later, his visa was canceled on the grounds that he did not meet the federal entry requirement to be doubly vaccinated.

It is understood that the tennis star’s legal team is reviewing Djokovic’s decision and options.

But the timing of the decision may make that difficult, given that the tournament is due to start in three days.

Mr Hawke had been considering intervening personally since Monday, when Mr Djokovic was granted a stay in a court case that overturned an earlier decision to cancel his entry visa.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the decision was a way to protect the sacrifices made by Australians during the pandemic.

“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for all Australians, but we have stood together and saved lives and livelihoods,” he said.

“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the outcome of those sacrifices to be protected.

“That is what the minister is doing by taking this action today.

“Our strong border protection policies have kept Australians safe, before COVID and now during the pandemic.”

Mr Morrison said he would not make any further statement given the “expected ongoing legal proceedings”.

Mr Hawke’s decision also cast doubt on the Australian Open, which is due to start next week in Melbourne.

The world number one in men’s tennis was included in yesterday’s Australian Open draw and was due to face fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round of the tournament on Monday.

Since his victory in court on Monday, questions had also been raised about whether the 34-year-old had lied on a border entry form about his journey in the two weeks before arriving in Australia .

In a statement on Instagram, he said his team had filed the document and the error was “human error”, and that he had provided additional information to the government for the minister to review.

“Government High Listening Act”

A former immigration department undersecretary, Abul Rizvi, said he was surprised by tonight’s visa cancellation, describing it as a “high-flying act by the government”.

“What’s at stake is Australia’s international reputation. What’s at stake is the government’s reputation if they lose this case, which will now be subject to judicial review. “, Mr. Rizvi told ABC Radio Melbourne.

“I have no doubt that Mr. Djokovic’s lawyers will urgently take this to court.

Mr Rizvi said Australian law required Mr Djokovic to be taken into custody.

“The Minister [Alex Hawke] can, if he wishes, release Mr. Djokovic on a relay visa, if he deems it appropriate in the circumstances, it is not impossible.

“But, given that the government is determined to show that it is strong on borders and tough on these issues, that may not be a choice the minister will make.”

Mr Rizvi said the key words for him in Mr Hawke’s statement were that the decision was based on “public interest” grounds.

“That’s the test the court will apply,” he said.

“Was it in the public interest for the Minister to cancel this visa?

He said any legal proceedings would inevitably become “obscure and complex” because what Australian law defines as the public interest is a difficult question.

Mr. Rizvi also said there was a possibility that Mr. Djokovic could apply for a bridging visa and the minister would grant it.

However, he said, it was more likely that Mr Djokovic’s lawyers would ask the court to order the minister to grant the Serbian star a bridging visa that would allow him to play at the Australian Open while a court hears his appeal.

“Unless he leaves the country voluntarily, which seems unlikely, I suspect the appeal may take some time.”

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