Novak Djokovic was re-arrested in Australia on Saturday after authorities tore up his visa a second time and declared the tennis superstar unvaccinated a threat to the public.
Court documents show the 34-year-old Serbian was currently being held at a Melbourne address as his appeal against deportation is being heard.
Just two days before the start of the Australian Open, the world number one is again focusing on the courts of law instead of the central court in the latest turn in its high-profile row on the status of the Covid-19 vaccine.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke has now claimed that Djokovic’s continued presence in the country could “fuel anti-vaccination sentiment” and even “increase civil unrest”.
Djokovic was summoned to appear before immigration officials in Melbourne before an emergency federal court hearing on Saturday and Sunday.
Under the protection of two officers of the Australian Border Force – believed to be their lawyers’ offices – they were allowed to follow the court proceedings from one address.
This is the second attempt by the Australian Conservative government to deport Djokovic, one of the suspects in the world’s most high-profile Covid-19 vaccine.
The 34-year-old Serbian is using his medical exemption to enter Australia earlier this month, hoping to win a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Open.
Amid public outcry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government revoked Djokovic’s arrival visa.
Many Australians – who have long endured lockdowns and border restrictions – believe Djokovic used the system to circumvent vaccine entry requirements.
But the government was insulted when a judge restored Djokovic’s visa and allowed him to stay in the country.
This time, the government has used extraordinary – and difficult to challenge – administrative powers to declare it a threat to public health and safety.
The government argues that Djokovic’s presence is a threat to public health and order, especially as Australia suffers from tidal waves of omikron infection.
Their continued presence in the country could “endanger the health of the Australian community” by strengthening anti-vaccination sentiment and discouraging people from receiving boosters, Immigration Minister Hoque argued, according to a court filing released on Saturday.
Djokovic’s lawyers argue that the government “did not cite any evidence” to support his claims.
The minister acknowledged that Djokovic posed a “negligible” risk to Australians becoming infected, but argued that his past “disrespect” for the Kovid-19 rules could pose a risk to public health and encourage people to ignore epidemic rules.
‘Health and well-being’
The tennis ace signed Kovid-19 in mid-December and, according to his own account, failed to separate despite knowing he was positive.
Public records show he attended a stamp unveiling, youth tennis event and gave a media interview around the time he was examined and his infection was confirmed.
In a statement, Hawke said the government was “firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, especially in the wake of the Kovid-19 epidemic”, citing “health and good governance grounds” for Djokovic’s decision to revoke his visa once again.
“It was in the public interest to do so,” the minister said.
Barrister Stephen Lloyd told Emergency in a federal court session late Friday night that the government had agreed not to deport Djokovic until the trial was over.
Djokovic is the top seed at the Australian Open and is a nine-time winner of the tournament. He was practicing just hours before the announcement of Hawk’s decision.
It is unknown at this time what he will do after leaving the post.
Serbian President Alexander Vucic on Friday accused Australia of “misbehaving” with the country’s biggest star and national hero.
“If you wanted to ban Novak Djokovic from winning the 10th trophy in Melbourne, why didn’t you return him immediately? Why didn’t you tell him ‘visa is impossible’?” Vusic said on Instagram. “Novak, we’re on your side!”
‘In the public interest’
Prime Minister Morris backed the decision, saying: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this epidemic, and they rightly expect the results of those sacrifices to be safe.”
The visa revocation effectively means that Djokovic will be barred from obtaining a new Australian visa for three years, except in one of the four Grand Slam tournaments during that time, except in exceptional circumstances.
He is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20-20 Grand Slam titles.
Former world number one Andy Murray, who will play in the Open, said on Friday that he hoped Djokovic’s position would be clarified.
“It looks like he’s been stretched for a long time and (he) is not great for tennis, not great for the Australian Open, not great for Novak,” Murray said.
Other players, including world number four Stefanos Sitsipas, have criticized Djokovic. “Certainly he is playing by his own rules,” Sitsipas told Indian broadcaster WION on Thursday.