Tennis star Novak Djokovic has returned to his native Belgrade via Emirates to Dubai connecting on Flydubai to Belgrade after a judge upheld the Australian government’s decision to revoke his visa and deport him. Djokovic is unvaccinated.
Novak Djokovic Flies Emirates + Flydubai To Belgrade After Australia Deportation
Djokovic’s immigration saga dragged on for over a week as Australia weighed whether to allow the tennis star to remain and compete in the Australia Open. Djokovic is unvaccinated, but claims to have recovered from COVID-19 in the last month, which ostensibly qualifies him under Australian complex immigration rules to enter the country.
However, the Australian government elected to exercise its discretionary power to revoke his visa and last night the Australian Border Force escorted him from his quarantine hotel to the airport and then to the boarding gate.
Djokovic then boarded an Emirates 777-300ER, EK409, from Melbourne (MEL) to Dubai (DXB). The flight left at 10:51pm and arrived into Dubai this morning at 5:31am after a flight time of about 14 hours.
After landing in Dubai, Djokovic connected to a Flydubai 737 8 MAX to Belgrade (BEG), traveling on FZ1745 and departing at 9:42am. The flight arrived into Nikola Tesla Airport at 12:21pm after a flight of just under six hours.
Djokovic did not do himself a favor by not wearing his mask properly onboard his connection to BEG in business class:
— King of Malibu 🇺🇸🇷🇸 (@extrajohntra) January 17, 2022
In electing to depart Djokovic, Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said:
Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel the visa held by Mr Novak Djokovic on health and good order grounds, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so.
This decision followed orders by the Federal Circuit and Family Court on 10 January 2022, quashing a prior cancellation decision on procedural fairness grounds.
In making this decision, I carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of Home Affairs, the Australian Border Force and Mr Djokovic.
The Morrison Government is firmly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Minister for Immigration has broad discretionary powers to cancel visas where it is in the public interest to do so, including relying on a health, safety or good order basis. A judge upheld the decision, saying it was not for a court to determine the wisdom of such a decision, only whether it was legal (and the court said it was).
Djokovic was not only turned away from Australia for this year’s competition, but now faces a three-year ban.
He received a hero’s welcome upon his return to Belgrade, where fans lined up with placards and Serbian flags hailing Djokovic as a victim of injustice. Djokovic issued the following statement after a judge upheld his deportation order:
I am extremely disappointed with the Court ruling to dismiss my application for judicial review of the Minister’s decision to cancel my visa, which means I cannot stay in Australia and participate in the Australian Open.
I respect the Court’s ruling and I will cooperate with the relevant authorities in relation to my departure from the country.
I am uncomfortable that the focus of the past weeks has been on me and I hope that we can all now focus on the game and tournament I love. I would like to wish the players, tournament officials, staff, volunteers and fans all the best for the tournament.
Finally, I would like to thank my family, friends, team, supporters, fans and my fellow Serbians for your continued support. You have all been a great source of strength to me.
Of course Australia has the prerogative to protect its borders and determine who should be let in or allowed to stay. But as I read Hawke’s statement concerning Djokovic, I don’t see much of a public interest in placing an asterisk by this year’s Australia Open due to the refusal to allow world’s top ranked tennis player to compete.
The punishment seems punitive and self-serving rather than a true measure to protect public health if Djokovic recently recovered from COVID-19, particularly if his body has developed antibodies.
Rules are points at which deviation is measured from and Australia has shown throughout the pandemic that the rich and well-connected receive special treatment. Here, the situation is not about being well-connected or rich per se, but about a pivotal player being allowed to compete. His deportation delegitimizes the upcoming match and does little to convince the 5% of eligible Australian citizens yet to be vaccinated they should be jabbed.
As I’ve reiterated time and again, I’m very pro-vaccine and encourage everyone to get vaccinated and boosted. Djokovic strikes me foolish to avoid the vaccination, whatever his reason for doing so.
Djokovic also did not help his case by seemingly lying about his trip to Spain and about isolating upon his positive COVID-19 test result. Then again, those were not the reasons given for the cancellation of his visa.
While Australia’s goals of promoting public health are laudable, I find its approach to so many facets of this pandemic deeply troubling. Of course I speak as an outsider looking in, and fully acknowledge that bias.
Novak Djokovic is back in Belgrade after becoming a political pawn and facing deportation from Australia. The tennis star flew Emirates to Dubai and then flydubai to Belgrade. He now faces a three-year entry ban in Australia, which puts into question his ability to compete in future Australia Opens, even once the pandemic recedes.