For the second time in a row, Australia has cancelled tennis star Novak Djokovic’s visa due to his refusal to be vaccinated.
The ruling on “health and good order” grounds means he might be deported and face a three-year visa ban.
The 34-year-old Serbian, though, can still file a court challenge to stay in Australia.
The men’s tennis number one was set to compete in the Australian Open, which begins on Monday.
“Today I exercised my power… to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said in a statement.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison stated that the decision was made after “careful consideration.”
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected,” he said in a statement.
Djokovic will meet with immigration officials in Melbourne on Saturday morning and will be allowed to stay at his existing lodging on Friday night, contrary to reports in the Australian media that he would be transferred to an immigration detention hotel.
The nine-time Australian Open champion was hoping to defend his championship next week, which would make him the most successful male tennis player in history with a total of 21 Grand Slam victories if he won.
Djokovic is now in the Australian Open draw and will play fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic early next week. If he is deported, Russian player Andrey Rublev will most likely take his place.
Djokovic’s visa was first revoked on January 6, shortly after he arrived in Melbourne, after Australian border Force officers claimed he “failed to provide appropriate evidence” for a vaccine exemption.
His first news that he was coming to participate in the Open sparked outrage among some Australians, who have been subjected to lengthy and tight Covid lockdowns, because it was uncertain if he would be able to comply with the country’s stringent admission requirements.
When Djokovic first arrived in Melbourne, he was detained for hours at the airport’s immigration check and subsequently spent days in an immigration hotel. His visa was reinstated by a judge a few days later, and he was released after a judge ruled that border authorities had broken protocol when he arrived.
Mr Hawke, though, cancelled Djokovic’s visa on Friday evening in Melbourne, citing separate authorities in Australia’s Migration Act.
The statute gives him the authority to deport anyone who he believes poses a threat to “the health, safety, or good order of the Australian community,” although Djokovic can still appeal.
It comes after Djokovic addressed claims that his agent had submitted a false declaration on his trip paperwork by accident. After testing positive for Covid-19, Djokovic acknowledged meeting a journalist and having a photoshoot.
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