Djokovic Lands In Dubai After Australia Deportation

File photo: Novak Djokovic of Serbia attends a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 14, 2022. MARTIN KEEP / AFP

 

Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic landed in Dubai on Monday after his sensational deportation from Australia over his coronavirus vaccination status shattered his dream of scoring a record 21st Grand Slam title in Melbourne.

As the Australian Open got under way, the men’s defending champion stepped off an Emirates plane carrying two bags and wearing a mask — his final destination unknown.

The dramatic deportation followed a protracted and high-stakes legal battle between the unvaccinated Djokovic and the Australian authorities that polarised opinion and tarnished reputations on both sides.

Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” after a Federal Court unanimously upheld the cancellation of his visa on public order grounds.

READ ALSO: Djokovic’s Family ‘Disappointed’ Over Deportation From Australia

He now faces a possible three-year ban from Australia, where he was won nine of his 20 Grand Slam titles — a tally that equals the all-time record alongside Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is wrestling with record coronavirus numbers, said “there was a very clear message sent”.

But he hinted that Djokovic could be allowed to return within three years “in the right circumstances”.

“It (the ban) does go over a three-year period, but there is the opportunity for them to return in the right circumstances and that would be considered at the time,” he said in a radio interview.

Legal Drama 

The humbled Djokovic boarded a flight from Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport for Dubai late Sunday, accompanied by a retinue of aides and officials.

Emirates flight EK409 took off at 10:51 pm local time (1151 GMT), according to an AFP reporter on board, and landed before dawn in Dubai.

Twice in the last 11 days Australia’s government had ripped up Djokovic’s visa and placed him in immigration detention  — saying his presence could fuel anti-vaccine sentiment amid a wave of Omicron cases.

Twice the Serbian star fought the decision in court, winning one round but losing Sunday’s decider in Australia’s Federal Court, James Allsop, ending a week of legal drama.

“I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love,” Djokovic said, acknowledging the game was up.

The controversy looks set to rumble on, with Djokovic’s image seriously damaged and Australia feeding a growing reputation for hostility towards visitors.

But Morrison, who faces a tough reelection battle this year, is unlikely to suffer much of a public backlash over the saga, even among those with misgivings about his hardline immigration policies.

Many Australians — who have suffered prolonged lockdowns and border restrictions that effectively kept families and loved ones apart — believe Djokovic gamed the system to dodge vaccine entry requirements, and are happy to see him go.

“I think they did the right thing asking him to leave. If he was still here it would be all Djokovic. But the tournament is about so much more than him,” one tennis fan, Simon Overton, told AFP as the Australian Open got under way in Melbourne Park.

But others, including Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, condemned the Australian decision to deport Djokovic.

“They think that they have by this, this mistreatment of 10 days, humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves,” Vucic told a state media outlet.

‘With or Without Him’ 

 

During the roller coaster days leading up to the Australian Open — and Djokovic’s deportation — it emerged the tennis ace contracted Covid-19 in mid-December and, according to his own account, failed to isolate despite knowing he was positive.

Public records show he attended a stamp unveiling and a youth tennis event, and granted a media interview around the time he got tested and his latest infection was confirmed.

Djokovic declined to give evidence in the case to dispel the notion that he is opposed to vaccines.

“He has now become an icon for the anti-vaccination groups,” government lawyer Stephen Lloyd said. “Rightly or wrongly he is perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view and his presence here is seen to contribute to that.”

“He could set the record straight if it needed correcting. He has not — that has important consequences.”

Spanish great Nadal took a swipe at his rival on Saturday as players complained the scandal was overshadowing the opening Grand Slam of the year.

“The Australian Open is much more important than any player,” Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park.

However, Djokovic’s compatriot Miomir Kecmanovic, who was set to face the nine-time champion in the first round on Monday, called the incident a “bitter pill to swallow”.

“Our little Serbian team here in Melbourne is upset and disappointed,” Kecmanovic wrote on Instagram.

AFP

Djokovic’s Family ‘Disappointed’ Over Deportation From Australia

Novak Djokovic was denied aces to participate in the Australian Open despite ab exemption from two panels of medical experts
In this file photo taken on October 22, 2020, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic attends an open air press conference in Belgrade. – Djokovic has pulled out of the ATP Cup in Sydney, organisers said on December 29, 2021, amid speculation about his vaccination status and whether he will defend his Australian Open title. (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP)

 

The family of Novak Djokovic said they were “disappointed” by an Australian court’s decision to deport the top ranked tennis star Sunday, in a statement published by Serbian media outlets.

“We are very disappointed by a federal court ruling and the fact that Novak has to leave Australia,” the family said in the statement.

“These are difficult moments, notably for Novak, but what we all have to do — namely us, his family — is to give him support more than ever,” the family added.

The statement was published just hours after Djokovic lost his last-gasp bid to avoid deportation from Australia, ending a sensational legal battle over his coronavirus vaccination status and dashing his dream of an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam singles crown.

Djokovic’s family have been amongst his most vocal supporters throughout the ordeal in Australia.

Back home in Serbia, his father Srdjan rallied hundreds of fans of the tennis world number one and at one point said Djokovic had been “crucified” much like Jesus.

“We believe he will come out of this situation stronger and that the time will show what he has been proving beyond any doubt so far, that he is a great champion and a man,” the family said Sunday.

Earlier in Australia, Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” by the federal court’s ruling that upheld the government’s right to rip up his visa over fears he is stoking anti-vaccine sentiment.

Djokovic: Australia ‘Humiliated Themselves’ With Court Ruling, Says Serbian President

File photo: Novak Djokovic of Serbia attends a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 14, 2022. MARTIN KEEP / AFP

 

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic lashed out at Australian authorities Sunday morning, hours after a federal court paved the way for the deportation of Novak Djokovic on the eve of the Australian Open over his vaccine status. 

“They think that they have by this, this mistreatment of ten days humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves. Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high,” Vucic told a state media outlet.

Vucic has remained steadfast in his support for Djokovic throughout the drama, calling the earlier detention of the unvaccinated tennis star a “political witch hunt”.

“I spoke earlier to Novak Djokovic after the decision and I encouraged him. We look forward to seeing him return to his country, where he is always welcome,” the president added.

READ ALSO[Djokovic] Australian Open More Important Than Any Player, Says Nadal

Earlier in Australia, Djokovic said he was “extremely disappointed” by the federal court’s ruling that upheld the government’s right to rip up his visa over fears he is stoking anti-vaccine sentiment and dashed his dream of a record 21st Grand Slam

In Serbia, the ruling stoked outrage among Djokovic’s fans.

“It’s a farce … All this has nothing to do with the sport,” Nebojsa Viskovic, a journalist covering notably tennis, told AFP.

“All the criticism about whether he was vaccinated or not doesn’t hold water.”

Many other Serbs echoed the view.

“The decision is not a surprise but is still shameful,” said Jadranka Misic, a 29-year-old sociologist from Belgrade.

For tennis fan Milovan Jankovic, Australia and the tournament itself had secured little more than a Pyrrhic victory.

“It’s going to be ridiculous to hold the tournament without the defending champion and nine-time winner.

“If I were Djokovic I would never set foot in Australia again,” the 57-year-old salesman added.

An “extremely disappointed” Djokovic said he would comply with the unanimous ruling.

AFP

‘Disappointed’ Djokovic Deported From Australia 

File photo: Serbia’s Novak Djokovic leaves the court after being defeated by Germany’s Alexander Zverev in their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s singles semifinal tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 30, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Novak Djokovic was deported from Australia Sunday having lost a sensational legal battle over his coronavirus vaccination status and with his dream of clinching a record 21st Grand Slam in tatters.

An “extremely disappointed” Djokovic said he would comply with a unanimous Federal Court decision to uphold his visa cancellation over fears he could stoke anti-vaccine sentiment.

“I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open,” he said on the eve of a tournament that he has dominated for a decade.

“I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love.”

An AFP reporter captured images of Djokovic at Melbourne’s Tullamarine airport late Sunday, as the humbled star boarded a flight for Dubai.

EK409 took off at 10:51 pm local time (1151 GMT).

Just hours earlier, in a few dry words, the chief justice of Australia’s Federal Court, James Allsop, dispensed with the unvaccinated tennis superstar’s attempt to reinstate his cancelled visa and to make tennis history.

“The orders of the court are that the amended application be dismissed with costs,” Allsop said in understated remarks that ended a week of legal high drama.

Three Federal Court justices had listened to half a day of feisty legal back-and-forth about Djokovic’s alleged risk to public order in Australia.

Immigration Minister Alex Hawke claimed Djokovic’s stance could inspire anti-vaccine sentiment, leading some people to face the pandemic without vaccination and inspiring anti-vaxxer activists to gather in protests and rallies.

Hawke welcomed Sunday’s verdict, saying: “Australia’s strong border protection policies have kept us safe during the pandemic.”

“(They) are also fundamental to safeguarding Australia’s social cohesion,” he said.

The player’s high-powered legal team tried but failed to paint Australia’s effort to deport him as “irrational” and “unreasonable”.

Despite the star being unvaccinated, lawyer Nick Wood insisted his client had not courted anti-vaxxer support and was not associated with the movement.

The government “doesn’t know what Mr Djokovic’s current views are”, Wood insisted.

The court did not endorse the government’s decision but ruled the action was legal under rules that give the minister exceptional and almost unquestionable executive power.

Anti-Vaccination ‘Icon’ 

Novak Djokovic was denied aces to participate in the Australian Open despite ab exemption from two panels of medical experts
In this file photo taken on October 22, 2020, Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic attends an open-air press conference in Belgrade.  (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP)

 

The Australian Open defending champion and first seed had been scheduled to play against fellow Serbian Miomir Kecmanovic on Monday evening.

But Djokovic has spent much of the last week in immigration detention, with his visa twice being revoked by the government over his refusal to get a Covid-19 vaccine before arrival — a requirement for most visitors.

Government lawyer Stephen Lloyd said the fact Djokovic was not vaccinated two years into the pandemic and had repeatedly ignored safety measures — including failing to isolate while Covid-19 positive — was evidence enough of his anti-vaccine views.

“He has now become an icon for the anti-vaccination groups,” Lloyd said. “Rightly or wrongly he is perceived to endorse an anti-vaccination view and his presence here is seen to contribute to that.”

In a written submission the government also pointed out that Djokovic chose not to give evidence at the hearing.

“He could set the record straight if it needed correcting. He has not — that has important consequences.”

Because of the format of the court, the justices’ decision would have been almost impossible to appeal.

Scott Morrison’s government had tried and failed to remove Djokovic once before — on the grounds he was unvaccinated and that a recent Covid infection was not sufficient for a medical exemption.

A lower circuit court judge ruled that officials at Melbourne airport made procedural errors when cancelling his visa.

For a few days, Djokovic was free to train — before a second visa revocation and a return to a notorious Melbourne immigration detention facility.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic lashed out at Australian authorities.

“They think that they have by this, this mistreatment of 10 days, humiliated Djokovic, but they have humiliated themselves. Djokovic can return to his country with his head held high,” Vucic told a state media outlet.

Vucic has remained steadfast in his support for Djokovic throughout the drama, calling the earlier detention of the tennis star a “political witch hunt”.

“I spoke earlier to Novak Djokovic after the decision and I encouraged him. We look forward to seeing him return to his country, where he is always welcome,” the president added.

‘With Or Without Him’ 

Many Australians — who have suffered prolonged lockdowns and border restrictions — believe the player gamed the system to dodge vaccine entry requirements.

The case has been seized on by culture warriors in the roiling debate over vaccines and how to handle the pandemic.

The tennis ace contracted Covid-19 in mid-December — allowing for the medical exemption — and, according to his own account, failed to isolate despite knowing he was positive.

Public records show he attended a stamp unveiling and a youth tennis event, and granted a media interview around the time he got tested and his latest infection was confirmed.

Djokovic is tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 Grand Slam titles each.

Spanish great Nadal took a swipe at his rival on Saturday as players complained the scandal was overshadowing the opening Grand Slam of the year.

“The Australian Open is much more important than any player,” Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park.

“The Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him.”

AFP 

Djokovic Detained Again In Australia, Declared Public Threat

Novak Djokovic of Serbia attends a practice session ahead of the Australian Open tennis tournament in Melbourne on January 14, 2022. MARTIN KEEP / AFP

 

Australia returned Novak Djokovic to detention on Saturday, saying the tennis star’s opposition to vaccination could cause “civil unrest” and triggering a high-profile court showdown.

Having once failed to remove the unvaccinated 34-year-old from the country, Australia’s conservative government is trying again.

And Djokovic is fighting back for the second time, with a new court appeal scheduled for Sunday.

The case will be heard from 9:30 am (2230GMT) by the full Federal Court of three justices, a format that leaves little room to appeal any decision.

READ ALSO: Brazil Begins Vaccinating Children Despite President’s Objection

For now, the Serbian ace is back at a notorious Melbourne immigration detention facility after a few short-lived days of freedom following his first successful court appeal.

A motorcade was spotted moving from his lawyers’ offices — where he had been kept under guard for most of Saturday — to the former Park Hotel facility.

For millions around the world, the Serbian star is best known as a gangly all-conquering tennis champion with a ferocious backhand and his anti-vaccine stance.

In court filings, Australia has cast him as a figurehead for anti-vaxxers and a catalyst for potential “civil unrest” who must be removed in the public interest.

Djokovic’s presence in Australia “may foster anti-vaccination sentiment”, immigration minister Alex Hawke argued, justifying his use of broad executive powers to revoke the ace’s visa.

Not only could Djokovic encourage people to flout health rules, Hawke said, but his presence could lead to “civil unrest”.

So with just two days before the Australian Open begins, the defending champion is again focused on law courts rather than centre court.

Second Serve

After months of speculation about whether Djokovic would get vaccinated to play in Australia, he used a medical exemption to enter the country a week ago, hoping to challenge for a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Open.

Many Australians — who have suffered prolonged lockdowns and border restrictions — believe Djokovic gamed the system to dodge vaccine entry requirements.

Amid public outcry, Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s government revoked Djokovic’s visa on arrival.

But the government was humiliated when a judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa and allowed him to remain in the country.

This time, the government has invoked exceptional — and difficult to challenge — executive powers to declare him a threat to public health and safety.

Experts say the case has taken on significance beyond the fate of one man who happens to be good at tennis.

“The case is likely to define how tourists, foreign visitors and even Australian citizens view the nation’s immigration policies and ‘equality before the law’ for years to come,” said Sanzhuan Guo, a law lecturer at Flinders University.

Djokovic’s lawyers argue the government “cited no evidence” to support their claims.

The minister admitted that Djokovic is at “negligible” risk of infecting Australians, but argued his past “disregard” for Covid-19 regulations may pose a risk to public health and encourage people to ignore pandemic rules.

The tennis ace contracted Covid-19 in mid-December and, according to his own account, failed to isolate despite knowing he was positive.

Public records show he attended a stamp unveiling, youth tennis event and granted a media interview around the time he got tested and his latest infection was confirmed.

Djokovic is the Australian Open’s top seed and a nine-time winner of the tournament. He had been practicing just hours before Hawke’s decision was announced.

The visa cancellation effectively means Djokovic would be barred from obtaining a new Australian visa for three years, except under exceptional circumstances, ruling him out of one of the four Grand Slam tournaments during that time.

He is currently tied with Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal with 20 Grand Slam titles each.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on Friday accused Australia of “mistreating” the country’s biggest star, and a 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 ‘it is impossible to obtain a visa’?” Vucic said on Instagram.

“Novak, we stand by you!”

Spanish great Nadal took a swipe at his rival on Saturday as players complained the scandal was overshadowing the opening Grand Slam of the year.

“The Australian Open is much more important than any player,” Nadal told reporters at Melbourne Park.

“Australian Open will be a great Australian Open with or without him.”

Defending Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka called the Djokovic saga “unfortunate” and “sad” and said it could be the defining moment of his career.

“I think it’s an unfortunate situation. He’s such a great player and it’s kind of sad that some people might remember (him) in this way,” she said.

Australia Cancels Djokovic’s Visa Again

Novak Djokovic was denied aces to participate in the Australian Open despite ab exemption from two panels of medical experts
File photo of Serbian tennis player Novak Djokovic  (Photo by Andrej ISAKOVIC / AFP)

 

Australia cancelled Novak Djokovic’s visa for a second time Friday in a sensational new attempt to deport the unvaccinated tennis superstar.

The country’s conservative government defeated once in the courts, invoked extraordinary executive powers to again rip up the 34-year-old Serbian’s visa on public interest grounds.

The move came just three days before the Australian Open starts, putting Djokovic’s dream of a record 21st Grand Slam in serious doubt.

Djokovic, an avowed Covid-19 vaccine sceptic, is the tournament’s top seed and had been practising on the Melbourne Park courts just hours before Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s bombshell decision was announced.

The government is “firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic,” Hawke said in a statement.

He cited “health and good order grounds” for the decision and said “it was in the public interest to do so”.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison backed the decision: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”

The visa cancellation effectively means the world’s number one tennis player would be barred from obtaining a new Australian visa for three years, except under exceptional circumstances.

But at an emergency court hearing late Friday, the tennis ace challenged the decision.

Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood requested an injunction against his removal and appealed for him to be allowed to remain out of immigration detention as the case proceeds.

“We are very concerned about time,” Wood said, arguing that the government’s decision was marked by “irrationality.”

– ‘All fools’ –
In Belgrade, Djokovic’s compatriots reacted with shock to the news.

“To say that a high-level sportsman like Novak is a danger to the health of Australians is just absurd, it’s a scandal,” said 28-year-old local government employee Petar Stojanovic.

The megastar flew into Melbourne airport on January 5 claiming a vaccine exemption because of a positive PCR test result on December 16.

Border agents rejected his exemption, revoked his visa and placed him in a notorious Melbourne detention centre where he spent four nights.

The Australian government insists a recent infection does not qualify as a vaccine exemption for foreign nationals trying to enter the country.

Djokovic’s top-flight legal team overturned the visa decision in the federal circuit court on Monday because border officials at the airport had failed to give him the agreed time to respond.

Djokovic’s vaccine waiver provoked outrage among many Australians who have endured nearly two years of some of the toughest coronavirus restrictions in the world.

Some tennis players say Djokovic should now be allowed to play, but not all have been supportive.

World number four Stefanos Tsitsipas criticised his behaviour.

“For sure he has been playing by his own rules,” Tsitsipas said in an interview with Indian broadcaster WION.

Nearly everyone in the Australian Open had been vaccinated, Tsitsipas said. But others “chose to follow their own way which kind of makes the majority look like they’re all fools”.

– ‘Error of judgement’ –
On Wednesday, Djokovic described reports about post-infection outings without a mask in Serbia as “misinformation”.

On the day of his claimed positive test in Serbia, he attended a ceremony to honour him with stamps bearing his image. The following day he attended a youth tennis event. He appeared at both apparently without a mask.

Djokovic said in an Instagram post that he only received the PCR test result after going to the children’s tennis event on December 17.

But he admitted that he also went ahead with an interview with French sports daily L’Equipe on December 18.

“On reflection, this was an error of judgement and I accept that I should have rescheduled this commitment,” Djokovic said.

The journalist who carried out the L’Equipe interview, Franck Ramella, said he had been unaware at the time of the interview that Djokovic was Covid-positive.

The tennis star also admitted to a mistake on his Australian travel declaration, in which a box was ticked indicating that he had not, or would not, travel in the 14 days before flying to Melbourne.

In fact, social media posts and reports show he flew from Serbia to Spain during that period.

Djokovic blamed his support team for this. “My agent sincerely apologises for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box,” he said.

As Covid-related hospitalisations rise in Melbourne, the Victorian state government said Thursday it would cap capacity at the Australian Open at 50 percent.

Djokovic Thanks Fans For Support Over Australia Visa Fight

File Photo of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic 
Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

 

Novak Djokovic on Friday thanked people “around the world” for their support since he was dramatically refused entry to Australia over his Covid-19 vaccine status.

The Serb, who is in a Melbourne immigration detention facility pending an appeal, said on Instagram: “Thank you to people around the world for your continuous support. I can feel it and it is greatly appreciated.”

Djokovic, an outspoken vaccine sceptic, was held after arriving in Australia this week to play in the Australian Open, where he was bidding to win an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam title.

The men’s world number one’s visa was revoked for failing to meet the country’s tough pandemic restrictions, a development that has reverberated globally and sparked an angry reaction from Serbia.

Around 50 of his supporters — a mix of tennis fans, anti-vaccine demonstrators and immigrant rights activists — rallied in the rain Friday, the Orthodox Christmas, outside the detention facility in Melbourne where it is thought he is being held.

“We come out to support him just because it’s our Christmas and obviously he’s going through a lot,” said fan Sash Aleksic.

“There would obviously be a lot more people here if people did not have family obligations today.”

Not everyone was a supporter, though, reflecting anger at the case felt by many Australians, who have endured nearly two years of travel bans and rolling lockdowns.

“Refugees are welcome here, Djokovic is not,” chanted a group of protesters. Police intervened to separate them from the Djokovic fans.

“We want to show that what Novak stands for is anti-public health, anti-social solidarity, and we stand for the freedom of refugees who’ve been held for eight-plus years,” said Zak Barzovoy, a 27-year-old student.

The former Park Hotel, now officially known as an “alternative place of detention”, holds about 32 refugees and asylum seekers trapped in Australia’s hardline immigration system.

The five-storey centre gained notoriety last year when a fire forced migrants to be evacuated, and maggots were allegedly found in the food.

Djokovic’s family have said the hotel is “dirty”.

Foreigners are still mostly banned from travel to Australia, and those granted entry must be fully vaccinated or have a medical exemption.

Djokovic said he had secured an exemption to play in the Australian Open this month, but the Australian government said he did not meet the stricter standard required to enter the country.

– Can play French Open –
Australian authorities said the 34-year-old star provided no evidence of an exemption and was detained, pending deportation.

Djokovic’s stance on the Covid vaccine has raised questions about his participation in other major tournaments this year.

But France’s sports minister said her country would allow him to play in the French Open, the next Grand Slam tournament of the year, which starts in May, even if he was not vaccinated.

“There are health protocols imposed for major events by the relevant federations which would permit someone like Novak Djokovic to enter the country,” Roxana Maracineanu said.

“In France today we do not have the same regulations as Australia for entry to the country, either for athletes or any citizens from other countries,” she added.

Another player due to take part in the Australian Open, Czech player Renata Voracova, has had her visa cancelled and is in the same facility as Djokovic, her government said Friday.

Australian media reported she has been told she would have to leave the country soon, but it was not known if she would mount a legal challenge, as Djokovic has done.

– International scrutiny –
Djokovic’s father Srdjan told a crowd in Belgrade his son was the victim of a “political witch hunt” and “corona fascism”.

“Jesus was crucified and endured many things but is still alive among us,” he said in a fiery speech. “Novak is also crucified… the best sportsman and man in the world.”

Djokovic’s detention has sparked international scrutiny, with the Serbian government demanding explanations.

“Djokovic is not a criminal, terrorist or illegal migrant, but was treated that way by the Australian authorities which causes an understandable indignation of his fans and citizens of Serbia,” a foreign ministry statement said.

The country’s president, prime minister and foreign minister have issued a series of nationalist-tinged remarks brimming with anger at the treatment of the national hero.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has defended revoking Djokovic’s visa.

“Rules are rules and there are no special cases,” he said.

Tennis players seemed divided, but some rallied around Novak.

“Look I definitely believe in taking action, I got vaccinated because of others and for my mum’s health, but how we are handling Novak’s situation is bad, really bad,” said Australian star Nick Kyrgios on social media.

Although Djokovic won a legal reprieve from deportation until at least Monday, when his attempt to overturn his visa cancellation will be heard in court, it is unclear whether he will play in the January 17-30 tournament.

Judge Anthony Kelly warned the star’s lawyers in a hearing Thursday that justice would move at its own pace through all necessary appeals. “The tail won’t be wagging the dog here,” he said.

Djokovic Fights Deportation After Australia Canceled His Visa

 

File Photo of Serbia’s Novak Djokovic (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Tennis world number one Novak Djokovic won a temporary reprieve in his deportation from Australia on Thursday but is set to spend the night in an immigration detention facility as he fights to remain in the country.

The vaccine-skeptic Serb was detained on arrival at Melbourne’s Tullamarine Airport having failed to “provide appropriate evidence” of double vaccination or a medical exemption.

Djokovic had jetted into Melbourne on Wednesday hoping to defend his Australian Open crown and to bid for an unprecedented 21st Grand Slam title, despite Australia’s tough Covid restrictions.

Instead of a conquering champion’s welcome, he was questioned at the airport overnight before having his visa revoked and being transferred to a Melbourne immigration detention facility.

After an emergency court appeal, a judge ordered that the controversial star would not be deported before Monday when a final hearing will be held.

– From court to court –
For months there had been speculation about whether Djokovic would play in the January 17-30 tournament.

Then, ahead of his arrival, a jubilant Djokovic boasted on Instagram that he had scored an unexpected medical exemption to play.

The 34-year-old has refused to reveal his vaccine status but has previously voiced opposition to being jabbed. He has contracted Covid at least once.

Amid widespread outcry at Djokovic’s apparent star treatment, conservative Prime Minister Scott Morrison said “rules are rules and there are no special cases.”

Australians have been unable to travel or welcome family from overseas for much of the last two years.

Stephen Parnis, a former Australian Medical Association vice-president, said the exemption sent an “appalling message” to people trying to stop the rampant spread of Covid-19.

The country recorded more than 60,000 cases in the last 24 hours, after being Covid-free for much of the pandemic.

– Djokovic, justice and truth –
But the Serb’s treatment on arrival prompted fury among his fans and a fiercely worded rebuke from Serbia’s president.

“The whole of Serbia is with him and… our authorities are undertaking all measures in order that maltreatment of the world’s best tennis player ends as soon as possible,” President Aleksandar Vucic said after speaking with Djokovic over the phone.

“In line with all standards of international public law, Serbia will fight for Novak Djokovic, justice and truth.”

Sanja, a 35-year-old Serbian-Australian fan, had been looking forward to seeing him play in Melbourne.

“He went through a civil war to play tennis. He’s done nothing wrong to the world,” she said.

For his part, Rafael Nadal — who like Djokovic and Federer is stuck on a record-equalling 20 Grand Slam wins — said his rival must face the consequences of not being vaccinated.

“He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences,” the Spaniard said.

– ‘No special favour’ –
Djokovic is believed to be detained at the Park Hotel, which the Australian government terms an “Alternative Place of Detention”.

As word of Djokovic’s arrival spread, Serbian flag-festooned supporters, anti-vaccine campaigners, refugee advocates and police descended on the already controversial facility.

Supporter Gordana said she was there to show support and to “free Djokovic to play.”

Currently around 32 refugees and asylum seekers are being held at the Park Hotel, after being brought for medical treatment from offshore detention facilities.

Detainees cannot leave the hotel and nobody is allowed in or out except staff.

The facility gained notoriety last year when a fire in the building forced refugees and asylum seekers to be evacuated, and maggots were allegedly found in the food.

In October, 21 men reportedly contracted Covid at the facility, which has been the site of regular protests.

Detainee Mehdi Ali told AFP that Djokovic is his favourite tennis player, and that he was saddened by the prospect of the star being held there.

“The media will talk about us more, the whole world probably, which is so sad, just because Djokovic would be here for a few days,” he said.

Australia’s leaders — wary of public sentiment and mounting Covid problems ahead of an election — have begun pointing fingers over the saga.

John Findley, an Australian immigration lawyer, said the visa revocation was questionable and seems to have come from “a pile on from social media.”

“If they see he has provided false information, he must have a chance to answer that,” he said.

Experts said that charge could bring a three-year ban from applying for another Australian visa.

With 10 days before the tournament begins, it is far from clear that Djokovic will be able to play, even if he wins his challenge.

Judge Anthony Kelly warned that justice will move at its own pace, and through all necessary appeals. “The tail won’t be tagging the dog here,” he said.

Tournament organisers also face tough questions.

Tennis Australia CEO Craig Tiley said Djokovic had no special treatment and just 26 of the approximately 3,000 players and support staff travelling to Australia for the tournament had applied for a vaccine exemption. Only a handful had been successful.

Those individuals also look set to face added scrutiny now.

Australia To Deport Djokovic Over COVID-19 Vaccination

Serbia’s Novak Djokovic leaves the court after being defeated by Germany’s Alexander Zverev in their Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games men’s singles semifinal tennis match at the Ariake Tennis Park in Tokyo on July 30, 2021. (Photo by Tiziana FABI / AFP)

 

Australia said Thursday it had cancelled the entry visa of Novak Djokovic, opening the way to his detention and removal in a dramatic reversal for the tennis world number one.

The vaccine-sceptic Serb had landed in Melbourne a few hours earlier, after celebrating on social media that he had a medical exemption to play in the Australian Open without proof he was fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

The exemption, granted by tournament organisers after his application had been cleared by two medical panels, sparked fury among Australians who have endured lockdowns and restrictions for two years.

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But the nine-time Australian Open champion, who touched down at Melbourne airport late Wednesday, never got past border control.

“Mr Djokovic failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled,” the Australian Border Force said in a statement.

“Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia,” it added.

“The Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our laws and entry requirements.”

AFP

Over $1.1m Raised For Families Of Australian Bouncy Castle Tragedy Victims

(FILE) This screengrab taken from video released by Australian broadcaster ABC shows cuddly toys and messages left at a makeshift memorial outside the Hillcrest Primary School the day after five children died and four others were injured when a bouncy castle was blown into the air at an end-of-term school party in the Tasmania city of Devonport. STR / ABC / AFPTV / AFP

 

A memorial to victims of a bouncy castle tragedy that killed five children in Australia continued to grow Saturday, as an outpouring of support drove donations over a million dollars.

Three 12-year-old boys and two girls, aged 11 and 12, were killed when the large inflatable castle lifted off the ground on Thursday in Devonport, northern Tasmania, police said.

Three more children were in critical condition in hospital in the state capital Hobart, and one was recovering at home.

On Saturday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison visited the growing memorial of soft toys, flowers, and emotional messages laid outside the school.

An online fundraiser — initially aiming to raise Aus$1,000 ($712) for the victims’ families — climbed to over Aus$1.1 million on Saturday morning.

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“It’s just beyond anything we could have thought possible,” Zoe Smith, who organised the fundraiser, told media in Devonport.

“I think it just proves how shaken up everyone is and how tight-knit of a community we are.”

Morrison also announced the government would fund support to the families, first responders, and community affected by the tragedy.

“We grieve with them, and we mourn with them, and we want to do everything we possibly can to help them through this terrible, terrible, unthinkable, and imaginable tragedy,” he told reporters in Hobart.

Earlier, authorities said the children were thrown from a height of about 10 metres (33 feet), citing initial witness reports.

Police said the probe into the incident is expected to take “quite some time” and would need to interview people at the outdoor party, which some 40 primary school children attended.

Five Children Killed In Australia Bouncy Castle Tragedy

File photo of a giant bouncy castle on the beach in Houlgate, northwestern France. AFP

 

Five school children were killed and several others were seriously injured when a gust of wind blew their bouncy castle into the air at an end-of-term party in Australia Thursday.

Police said the pupils at a primary school in Devonport, northern Tasmania were celebrating the last week of class before the Christmas break when they were thrown from a height of about 10 meters (33 feet).

Earlier police confirmed two boys and two girls from grades five and six — typically aged about 10-12 years old — were killed in the incident, with a fifth student later dying in hospital.

Several rescue helicopters and ambulances rushed to the scene after the incident, which occurred around 10 am local time on an otherwise sunny, early summer day.

Images from the school showed attending police officers in tears, and a swathe of blue tarpaulin sheets shielding what officers described as “a very confronting and distressing scene”.

A police investigation is underway. Distraught witnesses, friends, family, teachers and first responders are being offered counselling.

‘Horrific tragedy’ 

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the incident was “just shattering” and “unthinkably heartbreaking”.

“Young children on a fun day out, together with their families and it turns to such horrific tragedy, at this time of year, it just breaks your heart,” he said.

“I just want to say, to the parents and families and friends, all who were there, to the other young children there and witnessing these events, I just pray you’ll have great family around you and great friends and you can come through this horrific tragedy.”

The school had invited parents to volunteer for the event, which featured a wet play zone, a slide, an arts and crafts area, zorb balls and the bouncy castle.

“The purpose for the day is to celebrate a successful year and enjoy some fun activities with classmates,” the school, Hillcrest Primary, posted on its Facebook page.

That post was followed by the update: “There has been an accident on site at our school. We are closing the school for the rest of the day.”

“We ask that parents come to collect their children as a matter of urgency.”

The school has around 200 students

Local weather services had forecast “light winds” for the area, which sits on Tasmania’s rugged north coast, looking out across the frigid Bass Strait.

AFP

Australia Halts Border Reopening As WHO Warns On New Variant

A man walks along the main road in the central business district of Sydney on June 26, 2021, as Australia's largest city entered a two-week lockdown to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant. Saeed KHAN / AFP
A man walks along the main road in the central business district of Sydney on June 26, 2021, as Australia’s largest city entered a two-week lockdown to contain an outbreak of the highly contagious Delta variant. Saeed KHAN / AFP

 

Australia on Monday halted a plan to relax border restrictions imposed last year to fight the Covid pandemic, as a new variant sweeping the world prompted the WHO to warn of potential “severe” consequences.

Countries across the world have reacted to the Omicron strain, first identified in southern Africa, by slamming their borders shut despite the variant having already reached Europe, Asia and North America.

Australia, which has already confirmed five cases of Omicron, was set to relax restrictions on skilled workers and students from Wednesday in a boon to industries suffering labour shortages under one of the world’s toughest border regimes.

But Prime Minister Scott Morrison announced a two-week delay on the plan to allow Australia to gather information on the new variant, following announcements from Japan and Israel of bans on foreign travellers.

The World Health Organization (WHO) said the overall risk from Omicron was “very high” and warned that any major surge would put pressure on health systems and cause more deaths.

Many governments, particularly in western Europe, are already struggling with rapid rises in cases and have reintroduced mandatory mask-wearing, social-distancing measures, curfews or lockdowns — leaving high street businesses fearing another grim Christmas.

Health ministers from the G7 group of the world’s richest nations are set to meet later on Monday to discuss the new strain, with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen warning that the world was in a “race against time”.

‘Afrophobia’ jibe

The first confirmed case of the Omicron variant was in South Africa on November 9, with infections spreading rapidly in the country — although no deaths have yet been reported, according to the WHO.

It warned however that “if another major surge of Covid-19 takes place driven by Omicron, consequences may be severe.”

Scientists in South Africa flagged the new strain last Thursday, prompting several European countries to quickly ban flights from the region.

That irritated South African officials who said they were being “punished” for identifying a strain that has now been detected everywhere from the Netherlands to the UK, Canada to Hong Kong.

The WHO’s Africa branch said barring travellers from the continent “attacks global solidarity”, and Malawi’s President Lazarus Chakwera accused Western countries of “Afrophobia”.

Underlining the difficulties of containing the spread, Austria and Scotland, which both have flight bans in place from several African countries, confirmed their first cases of Omicron on Monday.

Nevertheless, Japan joined a growing list of countries reimposing tough border controls, barring all new foreign arrivals.

The Philippines also said it would temporarily suspend plans to allow in fully vaccinated tourists.

Milder symptoms

It remains unclear how infectious Omicron is and how resistant it could be to vaccines.

The WHO’s latest technical update called it a “highly divergent variant with a high number of mutations”, warning that some of these mutations might be associated with easier transmission and may have the potential to dodge protections including vaccination — though this is yet to be demonstrated.

South African doctor Angelique Coetzee, who raised the alarm over Omicron, said it was a shame that it had been labelled “extremely dangerous” as the cases she had seen suggested the symptoms were milder than other variants.

Portugal on Monday became the latest country to confirm a potential outbreak of the new variant — at a top-flight football club that was forced to field nine players in a match that was eventually called off with the team 7-0 down.

“Preliminary tests carried out by INSA strongly suggest that all 13 cases associated to Belenenses players are linked to the Omicron variant of concern,” Portugal’s national health institute said on Monday.

With the spread of the new variant and rising cases overall, governments are struggling to enforce new measures.

Dutch police arrested a couple who fled a quarantine hotel and boarded a flight to Spain, despite one of them having tested positive for Covid.

And populations are continuing to rebel — tens of thousands taking to the streets in Austria over the weekend to object to mandatory vaccinations.

AFP