Novak Djokovic said on Wednesday that his Australian entry documents were wrongly answered, in violation of the country’s strict laws on reporting recent travel, as the government said it was still considering whether the tennis star be deported.
Djokovic was held in immigration detention in Melbourne for several days after his visa was canceled by Border Force officials who questioned his medical exemption for requiring vaccination for COVID-19.
He was released on Monday after a judge overturned that decision, saying revoking the visa was “unfair” because the player had not been given time to consult with lawyers and tennis officials upon arrival in the country.
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Djokovic said his travel announcement was filled out by his support team, who made an “administrative mistake” when he ticked the “no” box in response to whether he had traveled elsewhere in the 14 days before arriving in Australia.
“It was a human error and certainly not intentional,” Djokovic said. “We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes it can be mistakes.”
Statement Australia’s immigration minister Alex Hawke has considered revoking the visa of the world’s number 1 tennis player ahead of the Australian Open, which begins on January 17.
Providing false or misleading information in the form is a crime that carries a maximum jail term of 12 months and a fine of up to $6,600 ($4,730) and can lead to the cancellation of the offender’s visa.
Djokovic, who is trying to win a record 21st tennis major at the Open, said his lawyers had provided additional information to the Australian government on Wednesday to clarify the matter.
A spokesman for Hawke, who has the discretionary power to revoke Djokovic’s visa, said ministers were still considering taking action, a process that would be extended to assess new information.
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Australia has a policy prohibiting non-citizens or non-residents from entry until they have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, but provides a medical exemption. Djokovic’s visa was revoked on the grounds that he had not been vaccinated and that his medical exemption was not satisfactory.
Monday’s court decision did not address whether the waiver – based on Djokovic contracting COVID-19 last month – was valid.
Djokovic’s case sparked a row between Canberra and Belgrade and fueled heated debate over mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policies.
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Questions arose about Djokovic’s activities prior to his arrival in Australia, when social media posts showed him in Belgrade, less than two weeks before leaving for Spain and then Australia.
The accounts of two eyewitnesses and another person obtained by Reuters on Tuesday confirmed those social media posts.
Djokovic, who held another practice session at Melbourne Park on Wednesday, did not give details of his visit in his statement on Wednesday, admitting to a mistake.
In its online clarification for the 14-day travel reporting requirement, the government said the information helps determine any necessary quarantine arrangements and allows health officials to contact any arrivals if a fellow traveler is COVID- Tests positive for 19.
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The player also apologized in his statement for participating in the L’Equipe interview and photoshoot on December 18, the day he said he learned he had tested positive for COVID-19 last month.
“When I went home to isolate for the required period after the interview, upon reflection, it was an error of judgment and I acknowledge that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” he said.
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Djokovic denied media reports that he also knew he had contracted the virus when he attended a tennis event in Belgrade to give prizes to children the day before.
“I was asymptomatic and feeling well, and I was not reported to have a positive PCR result until after that incident,” he said, adding that a rapid antigen test taken before the incident came back negative.
Social media posts showed Djokovic posing with children without wearing a mask.
(Reporting by Sonali Paul, Byron Kaye and John Maier; Writing by Jane Wardell; Editing by Lincoln Feast.)