Novak Djokovic was again detained in Australia on Saturday after authorities ripped up his visa for a second time and declared the unvaccinated tennis star a threat to the public.
Court documents showed the 34-year-old was being detained at an address in Melbourne, as his appeal against deportation is heard.
Just two days before the Australian Open begins, the world No 1 is again focused on fighting a legal battle in the latest twist in a high-profile row over his Covid-19 vaccine status.
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Immigration minister Alex Hawke now claims Djokovic’s continued presence in the country could “foster anti-vaccination sentiment” and even spark an “increase in civil unrest”.
Djokovic was summoned to appear before immigration officials in Melbourne ahead of emergency Federal Court hearings on Saturday and Sunday.
He was allowed to follow court proceedings from an address – believed to be his lawyers’ offices – under guard of two Australian Border Force officers.
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This is the second attempt by Australia’s conservative government to deport Djokovic, one of the world’s most high-profile Covid-19 vaccine sceptics.
The Serb used a medical exemption to enter Australia earlier this month, hoping to challenge for a record 21st Grand Slam title at the Open.
Amid public outcry, Scott Morrison’s government revoked Djokovic’s visa on arrival.
Many Australians – who have suffered prolonged lockdowns and border restrictions – believe Djokovic gamed the system to dodge vaccine entry requirements.
But the government was humiliated when a judge reinstated Djokovic’s visa and allowed him to remain in the country.
This time, the government has invoked exceptional – and difficult to challenge – executive powers to declare him a threat to public health and safety.
The government argues that Djokovic’s presence is a threat to public health and order, particularly as Australia suffers a tidal wave of omicron infections.
His continued presence in the country “may pose a health risk to the Australian community” by solidifying anti-vaccine sentiment and discouraging people from getting boosters, Mr Hawke argued, according to a court filing released on Saturday.
Djokovic’s lawyers argue the government “cited no evidence” to support their claims.
The minister admitted that Djokovic is at “negligible” risk of infecting Australians, but argued his past “disregard” for Covid-19 regulations may pose a risk to public health and encourage people to ignore pandemic rules.
The government has agreed not to deport Djokovic until the hearing is over, barrister Stephen Lloyd told an emergency late-night federal court session on Friday.
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