ITV News Sports Editor Steve Scott reports as Djokovic is set to go back into detention facing deportation for a second time
Tennis star Novak Djokovic's hopes of defending his title at the Australian Open are on the rocks as he faces deportation yet again after the Australian government revoked his visa for a second time.
The men's world number one will return to pre-deportation detention at 8am on Saturday (9pm GMT Friday) when he will face immigration officials, Judge Anthony Kelly ordered at a hearing that went late into the night in Melbourne on Friday.
Djokovic - who is in Melbourne for the Australian Open - won a legal battle on Monday against the Australian government's decision to cancel his visa and deport him.
But, just before 6pm (7am UK time) on Friday, and three days before the start of the tennis tournament, immigration minister Alex Hawke announced he would be using his powers under a different section of the law to send the 34-year-old Serb home “on health and good order grounds”.
The tennis player's legal team called Mr Hawke's decision "patently irrational" and said the immigration minister had argued allowing Djokovic to stay would excite anti-vaccination sentiment.
Djokovic has publicly opposed compulsory vaccination, but he has not campaigned against vaccination in general.
Serbian president Aleksandar Vucic spoke out on Friday, releasing a statement condemning Djokovic's treatment by Australian officials, while expressing support for his compatriot.
"We will fight for Novak Djokovic and the fact that you will harass him for a day, two or five will not change the judgment of our people about the people of Australia that we highly appreciate and respect, but also about Novak Djokovic and you can write hundreds and thousands of worst texts about him," Mr Vucic said.
"He will remain the best tennis player of all time and will always be in our hearts."
Following his meeting with officials on Saturday morning, Djokovic will be supervised by Border Force officers from 10am to 2pm at his solicitors’ offices, the judge ruled.
His lawyers said they hoped their challenge could be heard by Sunday, the day before the tournament starts.
The judge also ordered the proceedings to be transferred to the Federal Court.
Immigration minister Mr 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.”
Australian prime minister Scott Morrison welcomed Djokovic’s pending deportation, saying Australia had achieved one of the lowest pandemic death rates, strongest economies and highest vaccination rates in the world.
“This pandemic has been incredibly difficult for every Australian but we have stuck together and saved lives and livelihoods... Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the result of those sacrifices to be protected.”
Djokovic is the subject of controversy after it was confirmed last week that the Australian Open granted him a medical exemption from the Covid vaccine, which all competitors are required to have.
He landed in Melbourne last Wednesday afternoon with a medical exemption from the Victoria state government, but he was detained on Thursday morning at a hotel after his visa was cancelled following scrutiny of the medical exemption he had secured.
On Monday, Judge Anthony Kelly in the Federal Circuit Court of Australia overturned the visa cancellation, ruling the tennis star had not been given enough time to speak to his lawyers before the decision was made.
Since being freed from detention on Monday, Djokovic has been training every day.
'I’m not going to sit here and start kicking Novak whilst he’s down' - Andy Murray responds to news that Djokovic could face deportation
British tennis star Andy Murray commented: "It’s not a good situation. I’m not going to sit here and start kicking Novak whilst he’s down."
He said he hopes to see the case "resolved".
Prompted on his opinion about the Covid vaccine, he answered: "My feeling is that I would encourage people to get vaccinated but yeah, I do feel like people should be able to make their own decision.
"But then in a country like Australia, you need to be vaccinated to come in, you need to be vaccinated to compete here. And yeah, obviously, most of the players have chosen to do that."
What are the chances of Djokovic starting at the Australian Open? 50/50, says former Australian immigration minister Kevin Andrews
Eugenia Anang, a migration lawyer in Sydney, said she thinks there's a "reasonable chance" Djokovic will play in the Australian Open.
She explained now that Djokovic has had his visa cancelled, the only other visa he can apply for, to keep him in the country and to keep him from being detained until he hears back about his appeal, is the Bridging E visa.
Whether Djokovic will be able to play will depend on whether the judge decides the Bridging visa should come with conditions that allow or forbid him to work, or when the visa is granted, Ms Anang said.
On the appeal of the cancellation of his original visa, she noted "it's going to be a lot harder to win in court this time around" because the immigration minister has broad powers to cancel visas in Australia, while the last visa cancellation was done by a delegate for the minister.
Eugenia Anang, migration lawyer in Sydney, says Djokovic is in a 'very, very tough spot' and that the government is doing its best
Melbourne-based immigration lawyer Kian Bone said Djokovic’s lawyers face an “extremely difficult” task to get court orders over the weekend to allow him to play next week.
Hawke’s delay in reaching a decision bordered on punitive, he said.
Mr Bone said: “If you left it any later than he has done now, I think from a strategic standpoint he’s (Hawke’s) really hamstringing Djokovic’s legal team, in terms of what sort of options or remedies he could obtain."
The lawyers would need to go before a duty judge of the Federal Circuit and Family Court or a higher judge of the Federal Court to get two urgent orders: an injunction preventing his deportation, like the order he gained last week, and an order to grant Djokovic a visa to play.
Mr Bone explained: the second order is "almost not precedented.” He said: “Very rarely do the courts order a member of the executive government to grant a visa.”
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Djokovic was named in the Australian Open draw on Thursday and was paired against fellow Serb Miomir Kecmanovic for the match on Monday.
Mr Hawke's decision to revoke Djokovic's visa again came after the tennis star admitted he attended a newspaper interview and photoshoot after testing positive for Covid-19.
He also addressed reports he had falsely claimed on a travel declaration form he had not travelled two weeks before his flight to Australia, saying the form was submitted by his support team on his behalf.