Novak Djokovic given Aus Open lifeline as specific visa request ‘would be considered’
Djokovic: ‘This is going to get very messy’ says Matt de Groot
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Novak Djokovic faces one last hope of being allowed to participate at the Australian Open after having his visa revoked as a separate visa potentially remains available, according to a former government secretary. On Friday morning, Australian immigration minister Alex Hawke exercised his power to overrule a judge’s decision that allowed the tennis star to remain in the country.
It is the latest twist in an incredible saga involving the World No 1 and he now faces a battle to defend his title in Melbourne this month.
Djokovic initially landed in Melbourne last week in the knowledge that he had been granted a medical exemption by Tennis Australia. Djokovic is unvaccinated against COVID-19 and therefore needed the exemption to compete at the Australian Open.
However, upon arriving, the 20-times Grand Slam champion was detained in a state-run immigration facility and was told his visa would be revoked.
Djokovic appealed the decision and an Australian judge incredibly ruled in his favour at the start of the week.
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That was not the end of the matter, though, because immigration minister Hawke held the right to overturn the judge’s ruling.
And that was exercised on Friday morning, with Hawke cancelling Djokovic’s visa on ‘health and good order grounds’.
“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,” he said in a statement.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison added: “Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”
But it appears that Djokovic might have one last lifeline as he seeks to compete for a record 10th Australian Open title.
The Serbian can apparently apply for a bridging visa, which allows an individual to temporarily remain in Australia.
Australia’s home affairs website explains: “A bridging visa is a temporary visa we might grant you in certain circumstances.
“Bridging visas let you stay in Australia lawfully while your immigration status is resolved. The type of bridging visa we might grant you depends on your circumstances.”
Speaking moments after the Immigration Minister’s statement was released, former deputy secretary of the Department of Immigration Abul Rizvi told ABC News he was surprised by the decision.
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He suggested that Djokovic’s lawyers might try to apply for a bridging visa.
“What that means now is that Mr Djokovic must mandatorily be taken into detention – I assume he will go back to the same detention hotel that he was at previously,” he said.
“I assume his lawyers will now seek judicial review of that decision, and the court will need to consider whatever application Mr Djokovic’s lawyers make.
“I assume the application will be for Mr Djokovic to be released in some way, probably directing the minister to release Mr Djokovic on a bridging visa to enable him to play in the Australian Open. The judge would consider that and make a decision.”
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