Wednesday, January 26, 2022

Australia and Serbia leaders discuss Novak Djokovic’s visa

MELBOURNE, Australia – The prime ministers of Australia and Serbia on Tuesday discussed Novak Djokovic’s uncertain visa after the top-ranked Serbian tennis star won a court battle to compete at the Australian Open – but still faces the threat of relegation. Because he is not vaccinated against COVID-19.

The relegation drama has polarized views and garnered strong support for the 20-time Grand Slam winner in his native Serbia.

Morrison’s office said Prime Minister Scott Morrison and his Serbian counterpart, Ana Brnabic, agreed in their telephone conversation to stay in touch over the 34-year-old’s disputed visa.

“The PM explained our non-discriminatory border policy and its role in protecting Australia during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Morrison’s office said in a statement. “They both agreed to be in touch on this issue.”

Serbia’s public broadcaster Radio Television reported that Brnabic asked Morrison to ensure that the tennis star was treated with respect.

“`The (Serbian) Prime Minister especially emphasized the importance of conditions for training and physical preparation for the upcoming competition, noting that Novak Djokovic was not allowed to train in the previous days, and the tournament in Melbourne this week starts at the end of the year,” RTS reported.

Djokovic was on Melbourne tennis court training within hours of his court victory.

“I am pleased and grateful that the judge overturned the cancellation of my visa. Despite what has happened, I want to stay on @AustralianOpen and try to compete. I stay focused on that,” Djokovic tweeted just after midnight on Tuesday.

“I flew here to play at one of the most important events in front of amazing fans,” he said.

But immigration minister Alex Hawke is considering exercising his power to deport the tennis star under a separate law.

“The minister is currently considering the matter and the process is ongoing,” Hawke’s office said in a statement.

A border official on Thursday canceled Djokovic’s visa at the Melbourne airport, hours after he arrived in Australia to take part in the tournament.

Djokovic was confined to a quarantine hotel room in Melbourne until Monday, when a judge reinstated his visa, citing procedural errors by border officials at the airport.

The 34-year-old without vaccination was given medical exemption by tournament organizer Tennis Australia to compete from its vaccination rules because he was infected with COVID-19 last month.

But the Australian Border Force refused to exempt them from national vaccination rules for visiting non-citizens.

It said an infection in the past six months was a ground for exemption from vaccine only in cases in which the coronavirus caused serious illness.

There are also new questions over Djokovic’s application to enter the country after documents released by the Federal Circuit Court told officials he had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his flight to Australia.

Monte Carlo-based Djokovic landed in Melbourne just before midnight on Wednesday, answering “no” to a question about a previous trip on his Australian travel declaration form.

But the defending Australian Open champion was filmed playing tennis in the streets of Serbia’s capital Belgrade on Christmas Day and training in Spain on December 31 – both within a 14-day window.

The declaration states that giving false or misleading information is a serious offense, and civil penalties are also available.

Djokovic told border officials that Tennis Australia fulfilled the declaration on his behalf, but the official who canceled his visa noted that the sporting body would have facilitated that “the information provided by the visa holder on the basis of.’

Since Djokovic’s visa was revoked, Czech tennis player Renata Vora? Ova and an unnamed European tennis official have been exiled for similar reasons.

Morrison’s conservative government has blamed the defeat on Tennis Australia, whose ministers have accused players of misleading players about Australia’s vaccine requirements.

But newspapers have reported that Tennis Australia had asked the Interior Ministry to check Djokovic and other players’ visa paperwork before boarding their planes. Department did not.

Opposition home affairs spokeswoman Christina Kenelli blamed the government’s lack of planning for the confusion over the tennis star’s visa.

Keneally said it should have been clear whether Djokovic had the right to enter the country to play at the Australian Open after he had initially granted him a visa.

“If (he) is deported it does an incredible loss to Australia. If he gets to stay it does incredible damage to our tough border laws and is a real disgrace to Australians who worked hard on lockdowns and vaccinations,” Keneally told Seven Network Television.

Keneally said the Djokovic saga made Australia ‘like a joke’ on the world stage.

Daniel Andrews, head of Victoria State, which is hosting the Australian Open, said the federal government has changed its boundary rules in recent months.

‘When we talked about the exemption earlier, you would remember that Minister Hawke said it was his expectation that if you weren’t a double wax, you wouldn’t come into the country, whether you’re playing tennis or something. And doing it,” said Andrews, who, like Keneally, is a member of the centre-left Labor Party.

“It turns out this was not the position of the Commonwealth government and they are letting go of people who haven’t been double waxed,” Andrews said.

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