World tennis No.1 Novak Djokovic has had his visa canceled by Australian authorities and is facing deportation. He had received a COVID-19 vaccination exemption to defend his title at the Australian Open but has reportedly failed to provide proper evidence to border officials.
The Serbian is the defending Australian Open champion, and a nine-time winner of the event, but the government said Thursday he’s no longer welcome.
He was detained at Melbourne airport Wednesday for several hours before border force officials announced that he had not met immigration regulations and would be deported.
Djokovic’s father had claimed his son was being held “captive.”
Serbian President Aleksander Vucic said he was a victim of “harassment.”
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is standing firm, though.
“On the issue of Mr. Djokovic, rules are rules and there are no special cases,” Morrison said. “That is the policy of the government, and it has been our government’s strong border protection policies and particularly in relation to the pandemic that has ensured that Australia has had one of the lowest death rates from COVID anywhere in the world. Entry with a visa requires double vaccination or a medical exemption. I am advised that such an exemption was not in place and as a result he is subject to the same rule as anyone else.”
With his visa revoked, Djokovic is now an “unlawful non-citizen” in Australia and is being held in immigration detention, where his movements are restricted after he was driven from Melbourne airport by government officials. It is also unclear whether Djokovic is allowed to communicate with his advisers, which is standard practice according to Australian law.
His lawyers are challenging the deportation order in Australia’s Federal Circuit Court.
The 34-year-old tennis star has not publicly confirmed his COVID-19 vaccination status.
He flew to Australia after being granted a controversial medical exemption. Tennis authorities said he had not received any special treatment, but many Australians, who have lived under some of the world’s toughest coronavirus restrictions, believed Djokovic had abused the system.
Australia’s states and territories Thursday reported more than 70,000 new COVID-19 cases. A total of 612,000 infections have been diagnosed in Australia since the pandemic began, according to official figures, 2,289 people have died.
More than 90% of the eligible population have been fully vaccinated.
To curb the spread of the virus, the Northern Territory imposed lockdown restrictions Thursday on unvaccinated residents, who must adhere to stay-home orders until next Monday.