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Australia court rules Novak Djokovic to be deported

World number one tennis star was scheduled to play his first-round Australian Open match on Monday night.

Tennis star Novak Djokovic has lost his chance to defend his Australian Open title after an Australian court upheld a government deportation order on Sunday.

Three Federal Court judges sided with a decision made on Friday by Immigration Minister Alex Hawke to cancel the 34-year-old Serb’s visa on public interest grounds.

The ruling means that Djokovic, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, will remain in detention in Melbourne until he is deported.

A deportation order usually also includes a three-year ban on returning to Australia.

The sensational 11-day battle over his COVID-19 vaccination status ended his dream of a record 21st Grand Slam.

Hawke cancelled the visa on the grounds that Djokovic’s presence in Australia may be a risk to the health and “good order” of the Australian public and “may be counterproductive to efforts at vaccination by others in Australia”.

The justices listened to a half-day of feisty legal back-and-forth about Djokovic’s alleged risk.

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

The player’s high-powered legal team had painted Australia’s effort to deport him as “irrational” and “unreasonable”, but at times they faced pointed questions.

Djokovic’s lawyer Nick Wood insisted his client had not courted anti-vaccination support and was not associated with the movement. The government “doesn’t know what Mr Djokovic’s current views are”, Wood said.

Legal limbo

Djokovic was scheduled to play his first-round Australian Open match on Monday night on a Day 1 programme announced while he was still in legal limbo.

The Australian government canceled Djokovic’s visa because of issues surrounding his stance against COVID-19 vaccination. That was four days after the Serbian star had an earlier decision to cancel his visa overturned by a court on procedural grounds.

A border official originally cancelled his visa after deciding Djokovic did not qualify for a medical exemption from Australia’s rules for unvaccinated visitors.

He spent four nights in immigration detention before the first court hearing, and he was confined to an immigration hotel again on Saturday night waiting for his appeal.

A medical exemption that allowed the Serbian star to enter the country without being vaccinated  sparked fury in Australia, and became a political issue for Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who has to call a federal election before May.

source: News Agencies / Al Jazeera

Djokovic’s hopes of playing at the Australian Open were dashed after a court dismissed his appeal against a deportation order [File: Mark Baker/AP]

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