Novak Djokovic vaccination exemption: Border Force investigates travel declaration form

A curious detail on Novak Djokovic’s Australian Travel Declaration could be all the Federal Government needs to send him home.

Questions are being asked about the information Novak Djokovic provided on his Australian Travel Declaration as he waits to find out whether the Federal Immigration Minister will allow him to stay in the country.

The Herald Sun reports Australian Border Force officials are investigating if the tennis star lied on his entry form to come into Australia.

The decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa was overturned in the Federal Circuit Court on Monday but even though Judge Anthony Kelly found in the tennis star’s favour, there is still the possibility Djokovic could be deported.

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In a late twist on Tuesday, Djokovic faced allegations of travelling from Serbia to Spain in the 14 days before he flew to Australia last week. On his Travel Declaration form — which formed part of court documents released on Monday — the 20-time major champion ticked a box saying he had not travelled, and was not planning to travel, in the 14 days prior to his flight Down Under.

A statement on the form reads: “Note: Giving false or misleading information is a serious offence. You may also be liable to a civil penalty for giving false or misleading information.”

Djokovic flew from Spain to Dubai on January 4, then boarded a flight from Dubai to Melbourne on January 5.

On December 25, Serbian handball player Petar Djordjic posted a photo alongside Djokovic on Instagram, writing: “ONE AND ONLY!!!!! Thank you for the picture and for the nice wishes.”

Tennis commentator Jose Morgado said the pair were in Belgrade for the snap. However, while the photo was posted on December 25, there is no proof it was taken on the same day.

Other videos have emerged on social media alleging Djokovic was playing street tennis in Serbia over Christmas last month.

Multiple reports emerged in international media in early January saying Djokovic was in Spain preparing for the Australian Open, which starts next week.

In late December and early January the Soto Tennis Academy, based in Sotogrande in Spain, uploaded several videos to its official Twitter page showing Djokovic was practising there.

On January 1, the Academy posted a video where Djokovic wished people a happy new year.

On January 4, the Tennis Head website reported: “Djokovic is still training in Marbella, Spain on the same surface and with the official balls for the Australian Open.”

Djokovic bought a house in Marbella, on the south coast of Spain, in 2020, reportedly making the move from his previous base in Monte Carlo on the French Riviera.

Marbella is about a 45-minute drive from Sotogrande.

Tennis reporter Ben Rothenberg said if Djokovic went from Belgrade on December 25 to Spain, then landed in Australia last week, it would suggest he had travelled in the 14 days before flying to Melbourne.

“More document trouble for Novak Djokovic,” Rothenberg tweeted. “On his Australian Travel Declaration, released by federal (circuit) court yesterday, Djokovic stated he had NOT travelled in 14 days prior to his Jan 6 arrival here.

“In fact, Djokovic had travelled from Belgrade to Spain within that time.”

Australian journalist Karen Sweeney tweeted: “There’s fresh questions over Novak Djokovic’s Australian Travel Declaration — in which he declared he hadn’t travelled in the 14 days before he flew to Australia on Jan 5. He was seen playing Tennis in Serbia on Dec 25, and training in Spain on Jan 2.”

On Monday night a spokesman for Federal Immigration Alex Hawke said “it remains within (his) … discretion to consider cancelling Mr Djokovic’s visa under his personal power of cancellation within section 133C (3) of the Migration Act”.

“The Minister is currently considering the matter and the process remains ongoing,” the spokesman said.

Government lawyer Christopher Tran had flagged with the court on Monday the Immigration Minister could consider whether to exercise “the personal power of cancellation” — which could mean Djokovic would be unable to return to Australia for three years.

Djokovic, who is unvaccinated, received a medical exemption to compete in the year’s first grand slam but when he touched down in Melbourne last week, was told by the Australian Border Force he had insufficient evidence to prove his exemption was justified.

Djokovic was kept in a Melbourne hotel until the end of Monday’s hearing, when he was released from detention.

Djokovic’s exemption was based on his and Tennis Australia’s belief that having contracted Covid-19 in the past six months was a valid reason to not be vaccinated.

ATP responds to Djoker drama

The governing body of men’s tennis said Djokovic’s visa battle was “damaging on all fronts” after his victory in court.

The ATP said it sympathised with both Djokovic and the Australian public and said it had done everything it could to head off potential problems for players entering the country for the Australian Open.

“The ATP fully respects the sacrifices the people of Australia have made since the onset of Covid-19 and the stringent immigration policies that have been put in place,” said the statement.

But the ATP said it was clear Djokovic had believed he was able to enter Australia after having been granted the necessary medical exemption.

“The series of events leading to Monday’s court hearing have been damaging on all fronts, including for Novak’s wellbeing and preparation for the Australian Open,” the statement continued.

However, it said that the ATP “continues to strongly recommend vaccination for all players on the ATP Tour, which we believe is essential for our sport to navigate the pandemic”.

The body said that medical exemption requests were made independently of the ATP, but that it had been in “constant contact with Tennis Australia to seek clarity throughout this process”.

With AFP

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