“Rules are rules”: Australia Denies Entry to Djokovic
Australia has cancelled Novak Djokovic‘s visa and denied the men’s number one tennis player entry.
The country’s border agency made the announcement on Thursday, saying the sportsman “failed to provide appropriate evidence” to meet entry requirements.
Djokovic, who is from Serbia, earlier said he had obtained a medical exemption from COVID-19 vaccination in order to play in the upcoming Australian Open tournament.
Djokovic was taken from Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport to the Park Hotel, a government detention hotel notorious for a number of coronavirus outbreaks, pending his removal.
He is expected to be flown out later on Thursday, although there were reports that Djokovic’s lawyers would file an appeal against the decision.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison confirmed Djokovic’s visa had been cancelled on social media.
“Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules. Our strong border policies have been critical to Australia having one of the lowest death rates in the world from COVID, we are continuing to be vigilant,” he said on Twitter.
Later, at a media conference in Canberra, Morrison told reporters that Djokovic had failed to provide sufficient proof for why he should have a medical exemption from vaccination and denied the player had been “singled out”.
Australia has imposed strict measures to combat COVID-19, including requiring full vaccination, with exemptions for medical reasons, for people entering the country from overseas.
People in Melbourne endured a long and strict lockdown to bring cases under control in 2020, and are now worried about a surge in cases fueled by the more transmissible Omicron variant.
Many were furious that the unvaccinated player had been granted a visa to play in the Grand Slam tournament, which he has won nine times, and the outcry prompted Mr Morrison to promise to deport Djokovic if he did not provide sufficient evidence to support the exemption.
“There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all. None whatsoever,” the prime minister said during a news conference on Wednesday.
In a dramatic series of events, Djokovic touched down at Tullamarine Airport at approximately 11:30pm on Wednesday after a 14-hour flight from Dubai, but was ushered into an isolation room under police guard when Australian officials said that his visa did not allow for medical exemptions.
Djokovic’s case had sparked confusion, with the government for the state of Victoria, where Melbourne is the state capital, saying it would not support his visa application.
The move by the Australian government threatens a diplomatic incident between Australia and Serbia.
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic said he had spoken to Djokovic on the phone, telling him that “the whole of Serbia is with him and that our authorities are undertaking all measures in order that maltreatment of the world’s best tennis player ends as soon as possible”.
“In line with all standards of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, justice and truth.”
The player’s father, Srdjan Djokovic has called for his son to receive a hero’s welcome on his return to Serbia.
Culled from Aljazeera