Djokovic Faces Deportation From Australia Amidst Vaccine Controversy
Novak Djokovic faces deportation again after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time, the latest twist in the ongoing saga over whether the No. 1-ranked tennis player will be allowed to compete in the Australian Open despite being unvaccinated for COVID-19, according to ESPN.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said Friday that he used his ministerial discretion to cancel the 34-year-old Serb's visa on public interest grounds -- just three days before play begins at the Australian Open, where Djokovic has won a record nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles.
Djokovic's lawyers submitted their request for an injunction less than three hours after Hawke revoked the visa, and a directions hearing was held Friday to outline the next steps in the player's appeal case.
Judge Anthony Kelly confirmed that Djokovic has been called to attend an immigration hearing Saturday.
Deportation from Australia can lead to a three-year ban from the country, although that may be waived, depending on the circumstances.
Hawke said he canceled the visa on "health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so." His statement added that Prime Minister Scott Morrison's government "is firmly committed to protecting Australia's borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic."
Morrison welcomed Djokovic's pending deportation. The whole episode has touched a nerve in Australia, particularly in Victoria state, where locals went through hundreds of days of lockdowns during the worst of the pandemic and there is a vaccination rate among adults of more than 90%.
Australia is facing a massive surge in coronavirus cases driven by the highly transmissible omicron variant. On Friday, the nation reported 130,000 new cases, including nearly 35,000 in Victoria state.
Although many infected people aren't getting as sick as they did in previous outbreaks, the surge is still putting a severe strain on the health system, with more than 4,400 people hospitalized. It's also causing disruptions to workplaces and supply chains.
"This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods. ... Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected," Morrison said in a statement. "This is what the Minister is doing in taking this action today."