Tennis star Novak Djokovic’s family and fans have expressed outrage at his detention in a Melbourne immigration facility, but the Australian government insists that if it is found he has not told the truth about his exemption from vaccination rules, he must be deported.
The matter will be decided by the Federal Circuit and Family Court of Australia on Monday.
Djokovic flew to Melbourne to play in the Australian Open.
The 34-year-old player, who has said he is opposed to vaccination, had been granted a medical exemption to play in the tournament for unspecified reasons. The exemption was given by two independent medical panels organised by Tennis Australia, the body that runs the event, and Victoria state, tournament organisers said.
However, on arrival, his entry was denied and he has been held in an immigration detention facility – a hotel in a Melbourne suburb – since. Australian Border Force (ABF) officials said Djokovic had ‘failed to provide appropriate evidence’ for entry after arriving from Dubai.
The BBC reports that Australia’s deputy prime minister, Barnaby Joyce, said that rich people ‘can’t wander around the world thinking… they are above the laws’.
‘If he hasn’t filled out the forms appropriately then he’s taking the sovereign capacity of another nation for a joke,’ Joyce is quoted as saying. ‘100% someone’s made a mistake and if he hasn’t told the truth then the person who’s made the mistake is Mr Djokovic.’
He added: ‘You can’t just wander around the world thinking that because you’re really rich you’re really above the laws of other nations.’
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who had initially said he accepted the Victorian government’s decision to grant medical exemptions to Djokovic and other tennis players, denied Djokovic was being singled out, insisting that no-one was above the country’s rules.
According to the BBC, though Djokovic’s reason for an exemption has not been disclosed, Morrison said contracting Covid-19 in the past six months was not among federal criteria for one.