Report: Djokovic denied entry into Australia

Report: Djokovic denied entry into Australia

Novak Djokovic has received a medical exemption to compete in the Australian Open without being vaccinated against COVID-19, but that same medical exemption could end up preventing him from entering the country. 

Djokovic has reportedly been denied entry to Australia due to a visa mixup. According to the Times of London, a member of Djokovic’s team applied for the wrong class of visa — one that doesn’t apply to people who have gotten a medical exemption — and Djokovic’s stuck at the airport without a way to enter the country.

Via the Times:

But Djokovic is presently unable to proceed through passport control after a member of his support team made a critical mistake in requesting a sub-class of visa that does not apply to those who have received medical exemptions from a COVID-19 vaccine. The error had been discovered by the Australian border force while Djokovic was already traveling on a 14-hour commercial flight from Dubai to Melbourne.

Could the Australian government help?

In a case like this, the government of Victoria, the state where the Australian Open takes place, could intervene and help the defending champion gain entry to the country. However, according to the Times of London, the Victorian government has refused to support the federal government’s efforts to correct Djokovic’s visa application. Acting Victorian sports minister Jaala Pulford appeared to confirm this on Wednesday, tweeting that she and her department will not be supporting Djokovic if he applies for a new visa in the appropriate class.

Public outcry over Djokovic’s medical exemption

One factor that may be influencing the decision to take a hands-off approach with Djokovic’s visa issues is the public response. Ninety percent of the Australian population has been vaccinated, and the country has continued to implement lockdowns and travel restrictions even as other nations have relaxed them. 

So when Djokovic announced that he’d been granted a medical exemption to compete at the Australian Open without being vaccinated against COVID-19, the reaction from the Australian public was largely negative — especially because no explanation was given by him or Tennis Australia. 

Djokovic is under no obligation to explain why he was given a medical exemption so he could compete without being vaccinated. However, he has been publicly against vaccines and vaccine mandates and has refused to comment on his own vaccination status. With Australia continuing to be so vigilant against the spread of COVID-19, Djokovic’s exemption appeared to many to be a star tennis player receiving special treatment to enter their country when some of them aren’t even allowed to travel between states. 

What happens now?

No one is sure what Djokovic’s options are. The government in Victoria appears to be dedicated to treating Djokovic like any other person. Australia’s prime minister, Scott Morrison, already warned that there could be a non-visa issue with Djokovic entering the country, saying recently that Djokovic would have to prove he has a medical reason for not getting the vaccine before he would be allowed entry, as everyone is. 

As of noon ET, which is 4am local time in Melbourne, Djokovic still hadn’t been allowed through customs, and was reportedly being “isolated” at the airport. 

If he’s definitively not allowed to enter Australia, it’s possible that Djokovic could be put on a flight home after being detained at the airport. But that’s only if he’s being treated like a regular person and not a worldwide tennis star. If his fame is taken into account, who knows what happens next?