World No. 1 male tennis player Novak Djokovic (35, Serbia) was denied entry to Australia for not being vaccinated against the novel coronavirus infection (COVID-19). Diplomatic friction has arisen as even the Prime Minister of Australia and the President of Serbia have stepped in, and some are predicting that if Djokovic is deported, entry into Australia will be restricted for up to three years. Djokovic’s parents, family and supporters held a press conference in front of the Serbian Parliament on the 7th and strongly condemned the Australian government’s actions.
Djokovic arrived at Melbourne International Airport on the night of the 5th to participate in the Australian Open tennis tournament, which will open in Melbourne, Australia on the 17th. However, he did not pass immigration and waited for about eight hours at the airport, but in the end his visa was refused. The Australian federal government has denied Djokovic’s entry into the country because he was not vaccinated, although it is mandatory for him to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
On the other hand, Djokovic’s position is different. He said he had already received a vaccination waiver from the Victorian government and the event organizers before entering Australia, and submitted relevant documents to prove this during the arrival process. However, the Australian Immigration Service, which is administered by the federal government, has canceled the visa because of insufficient documentation. In order to be exempt from vaccination, it is necessary to confirm that the person has recovered after being diagnosed with COVID-19 in the past six months or that there is a concern about serious side effects from vaccination. Djokovic, who is at risk of being deported, is currently staying at The Park Hotel, a quarantined hotel in Melbourne, Australia, and is preparing for legal action. Currently, his fans gather in front of the hotel to hang up a signboard that reads ‘Free one, free all’ or even hold a candlelight protest.
It seems that Djokovic’s permission to be exempt from vaccination is not a preference. This is because the Australian Open Organizing Committee said, “26 tournament officials applied for permission to exempt from vaccination, and about 75 to 80 percent did not get permission.” At this year’s Australian Open, players, fans, and officials alike can enter the venue only to those who have received the COVID-19 vaccine, and those who have not received the vaccine must obtain an exemption from vaccination. Therefore, it is a very absurd situation for Djokovic, who flew to Australia only relying on the guidance of the organizing committee and the state government. Djokovic has always expressed his opposition to vaccination. In an interview in April 2020, during the early stages of the COVID-19 outbreak, he said, “Personally, I am opposed to being vaccinated against COVID-19. If there is a situation where it is mandatory, I will make a decision at that time.” The fact that Djokovic was confirmed to have COVID-19 in June 2020 was revealed once, and has not been since.
The Australian government’s position is firm. This is because Australia has strictly enforced border closures since the beginning of the outbreak, and in Victoria, about 90% of residents aged 12 and over are now fully vaccinated. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has said that “the rules are the rules” and that there are no preferential treatment. In response, Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic strongly protested, saying, “Stop the unfair treatment of the world’s best tennis player.”
Djokovic has won the Australian Open for the past three years and has won his ninth career. However, if Djokovic is deported this time, there is a forecast that his career as a player will be severely affected as his entry into Australia may be restricted for three years. “Once a visa is rejected once, visa issuance is done very carefully,” said Mary Crowe, a law professor at the University of Sydney, Australia, in an interview with NCA Newswire. “At present, it is unlikely that Djokovic’s argument will be accepted in court, and if Djokovic is deported, he could continue to be denied entry to Australia for the next three years.” predicted.
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