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Djokovic admits travel declaration had incorrect information | Politics

Melbourne, Australia (AP) –

Novak Djokovic has admitted his Australian travel authorization form contains incorrect information as the government approaches a decision on the deportation of the Serbian tennis star, who has not been vaccinated against COVID-19, on public interest grounds.

The men’s tennis player No. 1’s visa was revoked upon arrival in Melbourne last week when his vaccination exemption was questioned, but he won a legal battle on procedural grounds that allowed him to remain in the country. He still faces the possibility of deportation – a decision entirely at the discretion of Australian Immigration Minister Alex Hawke if he considers it is in the public interest for health and safety reasons.

Hook has been studying the matter since a judge returned Djokovic’s visa on Monday.

Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce said most Australians would not agree with the nine-times Australian Open champion and defender, the Australian Open champion, coming to Melbourne to compete in violation of the country’s strict quarantine rules.

“Most of us thought that because Mr. Djokovic had not been vilified twice that he would be asked to leave,” Joyce told Nine TV on Thursday. “Well, that was our opinion, but it was not the opinion of the court.”

“The vast majority of Australians … did not like the idea that another individual, whether it was a tennis player or … the King of Spain or the Queen of England, could come here and have a different set of rules for what everyone has to deal with,” added Joyce.

The draw for the men’s and women’s singles brackets had been scheduled for 3pm local time (0400 GMT) in Melbourne, but a tournament official told waiting media that the event had been postponed until further notice and declined further comment.

There has been speculation that the delay reflects uncertainty over whether Djokovic will be competitive.

Controversy over Djokovic’s presence in Australia is raging against the backdrop of a spike in COVID-19 infections across the country.

The state of Victoria, which hosts the Australian Open, on Thursday eased seven-day isolation rules for close contacts of infected people in sectors including education and transportation to limit the number of employees who stay away from work.

The state recorded 37,169 new cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours Thursday, as well as 25 deaths and 953 hospitalizations.

Ticket sales for the tennis tournament have been restricted to reduce the risk of transmission.

In a statement posted on his social media accounts, on Wednesday, the tennis star blamed “human error” by his support team for failing to state that he had traveled in the two-week period before entering Australia.

Providing false information on the form could be the basis for the deportation, the latest development in an saga over whether the athlete should be allowed to remain in Australia despite not being vaccinated. The initial news that Djokovic had been granted an exemption from strict vaccination rules to enter the country sparked a protest, and the ensuing dispute has since overshadowed the run-up to the Australian Open.

Djokovic admitted the loopholes when he sought to clear up what he called “persistent misinformation” about his movements after being injured last month – although he did not elaborate on the errors he was referring to.

The statement was released as Djokovic was at Rod Laver Arena holding a training session, his third on the main court of the tournament since his release from four nights in an immigration detention center.

Djokovic remains in limbo ahead of his first major tennis tournament kick-off on Monday. The stakes are particularly high as he seeks to win the 21st singles title at the men’s Grand Slam.

Deportation could result in penalties of up to a three-year ban from entering Australia, a frightening prospect for a player who has won nearly half of his 20 Grand Slam titles here.

Court documents detailing Djokovic’s positive test have fueled speculation about the star player’s attendance of events in his native Serbia last month. Other questions were also raised about errors in his immigration application that could potentially lead to his visa being revoked.

In the application, Djokovic said he had not traveled in the 14 days prior to his trip to Australia, despite being seen in Spain and Serbia in that period.

In his statement, Djokovic called the latest comment “painful” and said he wanted it addressed in order to “reduce the broader concern in the community about my presence in Australia”.

The 34-year-old Serb said he underwent rapid tests that were negative and had no symptoms before getting his positive PCR result out of “a lot of caution” after attending a basketball game in Belgrade in December. .14.

He said he got the result in late December 17, and canceled all of his commitments except for a long-running interview with L’Equipe the next day.

“I felt compelled to move on…but I made sure I was social distancing and only wore a mask when my picture was taken,” Djokovic said.

A L’Equipe reporter who interviewed the athlete in the newspaper wrote that he and a cameraman were masked during the session – and kept their distance except for a brief moment when he bid farewell to Djokovic. The reporter said he tested negative for COVID-19 on Monday, and did not mention the photographer’s condition.

“As I went home after the interview to isolate for the required period, on reflection, this was a miscalculation,” Djokovic said.

At the time, Serbia asked those infected with COVID-19 to isolate them for at least 14 days. But Djokovic was seen just over a week after he tested positive on the streets of Belgrade, although he said he tested negative in between.

Meanwhile, Djokovic addressed the Australian travel ad by saying it was submitted by his support team and “my agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative error in checking the incorrect box”.

“This was human error and certainly not intentional,” he wrote. “My team has provided additional information to the Australian Government to clarify this matter.”

The decision could take some time – but there is time pressure since the draw to determine the brackets at the Australian Open is scheduled for Thursday.

Hook’s office released a statement on Wednesday saying that Djokovic’s legal team had submitted more documents and added, “Of course, this will affect the timeframe for the decision.”

The dispute revolves around whether he has a valid exemption from the strict rules requiring vaccination to enter Australia since he recently recovered from COVID-19.

His exemption from competition was approved by the state government of Victoria and Tennis Australia, the tournament’s organiser. Apparently this allowed him to get a visa to travel.

But the Australian Border Force refused the waiver and canceled his visa on arrival before a federal judge overturned that decision. Government lawyers said the infection was only grounds for exemption in cases where the coronavirus had caused serious illness – although it was not clear why the visa was issued if that was the case.

The initial decision to allow him to compete sparked complaints that Djokovic was being treated special – and his subsequent visa revocation sparked allegations that he was being targeted once the issue became political. This saga is set against a backdrop of growing concern in Australia about the rise in cases of COVID-19 – and the government’s strategy to contain it.

If Djokovic’s visa is revoked, his lawyer can return to court to apply for an injunction preventing him from forcing him to leave the country.

Sydney-based immigration attorney Simon Gains said that if Djokovic’s visa was revoked, he would likely be held in an immigration detention centre. Djokovic can apply for a transitional visa to compete in the tournament pending appeal. The Immigration Department will have two business days to make a decision on this application. Jens said that if Djokovic was denied such a visa, it would take weeks to appeal.


This story has been updated to correct quotes from Djokovic’s statement. He said persistent misinformation, not ongoing misinformation; binding, not binding; My team, not the team. Also updated to correct Serbia’s rules on isolation after testing positive for COVID-19 in December.


McGurk reported from Canberra, Australia. Associated Press contributing writers Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia, and Samuel Petrikin in Brussels.

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