Novak Djokovic has won his appeal against deportation from Australia and will be released from detention in a hotel after a judge ruled that the country’s border authorities had acted unreasonably when they canceled his visa.
Anthony Kelly, the presiding judge, said Djokovic was not given enough time to react to the decision by border authorities to cancel his visa when he detained at Melbourne airport on Thursday.
The decision was a bitter blow for the Australian government after Prime Minister Scott Morrison took a tough fight against the world’s top men’s tennis player. Attorneys for the government said Immigration Minister Alex Hawke could use his powers to cancel the visa again, but that would likely mean a return to court.
The government argued that Djokovic had failed to provide sufficient evidence to justify an exemption to enter Australia without a vaccination. He faces being barred from the country for three years if the decision to cancel his visa is upheld.
The tennis star’s lawyers questioned the legality of blocking him from Australia, arguing that Djokovic “did absolutely everything he understood was required of him to enter the country”.
Djokovic was detained last week after being told he did not meet the entry requirements because he had not been vaccinated. He traveled to Melbourne to defends his title at the Australian Open, the first grand slam tournament of 2022, which starts next week.
Kelly said Djokovic was medical exemption granted and completed the necessary paperwork to enter Australia. “The point I’m somewhat excited about is what more could this guy have done?” the judge told the court. He also questioned whether Djokovic had enough time to consult his lawyers and agent after being told he was going to be deported.
Australian authorities did not respond to a request for comment.
Djokovic received a release to be vaccinated because he contracted Covid-19 on December 16th. He was granted a visa to enter Australia by the Department of Home Affairs and allowed to play in the Australian Open on January 1 after two expert panels – including one backed by the Victoria State Government – approved it.
The Australian government has argued that the contracting of Covid for the past six months has not been a legal release for international travelers wishing to enter the country. It added that only in the case of an “acute serious medical illness” arising from infection, would it be justified to postpone vaccination.
“All he said was that he tested positive for Covid-19,” the government said in its filing.
Social media posts dated immediately after December 16 show Djokovic shaking hands at an event commemorating a stamp made in his honor, posing with young players indoors without a mask. It is unclear if he was aware that he tested positive when the photos were taken.
The Australian government has also argued it has the right to determine who is entitled to be in the country. “That power and responsibility are fundamental features of Australia’s sovereignty,” it said.
A public outcry greeted the decision to grant a release to Djokovic, who criticized vaccination requirements. Canberra’s subsequent decision to deny him access has ignited a diplomatic dispute with Serbia which drew protesters to the streets of Melbourne.