MELBOURNE—Australia canceled Novak Djokovic’s visa because his presence in the country could spark anti-vaccination sentiment, not because he posed a health threat from not being vaccinated against COVID-19, his lawyers said in court Friday night. night.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke’s decision was “clearly irrational,” Djokovic’s lawyer Nicholas Wood told Australia’s Federal Circuit and Family Court, explaining that would be the main reason for asking the court to overturn the second cancellation of your visa.
His lawyers are pushing for the case to be heard on Sunday so that if he is successful and is allowed to stay, he will be able to compete at the Australian Open, which starts Monday, in a bid to win a record 21 major. qualification.
In the meantime, the court said he would be detained from 8am on Saturday, with permission to attend his lawyers’ offices under surveillance to prepare for the case and attend the court hearing, possibly on Sunday.
Djokovic was detained for several days after arriving in Australia more than a week ago, and was released last Monday when the same court overturned the cancellation of his visa on the grounds that the Australian Border Force had treated him unfairly.
When he first arrived, immigration officials canceled his visa because he did not have sufficient evidence to support a medical exemption from Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination requirement for incoming travellers.
However, the immigration minister’s decision on Friday to cancel his visa again was based on an entirely different reason, Djokovic’s lawyers said.
“The new underlying logic is not a direct risk to others. It’s that Mr. Djokovic is in Australia, in Melbourne in particular, being here will spark an anti-vaccine sentiment, a radically different approach,” his lawyer Wood told the court.
Unlike the Australian Border Force last week, Wood said, the minister found that Djokovic was compliant with the law, posed only negligible risk to others, had natural immunity from a recent infection, had a medical reason not to be vaccinated and he was a man of good standing.
Wood said the jurisdictional error that should lead to the reversal of the cancellation “could be explained as irrationality.”
The government has agreed not to deport Djokovic at least until the case is concluded, Judge Anthony Kelly said.
Kelly, who overturned the first visa cancellation, agreed to transfer the case to Federal Court.
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