Australia, Jan 6 (BBC) – Tennis star Novak Djokovic has had his visa to enter Australia dramatically revoked on his arrival in Melbourne.
The world number one was held in the city’s airport for several hours before border forces announced he had not met entry rules and would be deported.
It came a day after he was granted an exemption from vaccination rules to play in the Australian Open.
Australian PM Scott Morrison said no one was above the rules, and Djokovic is reportedly challenging the decision.
Shortly after his arrival in Melbourne, authorities noticed that his team had not requested a visa that permits medical exemptions for being unvaccinated. Djokovic has not spoken about his vaccination status, but last year he said he was “opposed to vaccination”.
It is not clear whether the player will remain in Australia while his lawyers attempt to overturn the decision.
In a statement, the Australian Border Force said Djokovic “failed to provide appropriate evidence to meet the entry requirements to Australia, and his visa has been subsequently cancelled.
“Non-citizens who do not hold a valid visa on entry or who have had their visa cancelled will be detained and removed from Australia,” it added.
Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told Channel 7 News Sunrise programme: “Australians have had to do it tough, and Australians in many different states and territories have to show their vaccination record… it’s not unreasonable to have exactly the same requirements of all who enter this country.”
Prime Minister Scott Morrison tweeted: “Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders. No one is above these rules.”
His treatment has provoked outrage in his native Serbia. His father, Srdjan Djokovic said his son was had been in a room guarded by police.
“This is not just a fight for Novak, but a fight for the whole world,” he said in a statement released to the media.
President Aleksander Vucic said the star was a victim of “harassment”, and that “the whole of Serbia”, supported him.
Australia is seeing tens of thousands of Covid-19 cases for the first time after enduring some of the world’s strictest restrictions. More than 90% of Australia’s over-16 population is fully vaccinated, but some people still cannot travel interstate or globally because of current measures.
Many Australians had previously accused the government of allowing the rich and famous to do as they please while ordinary people remained separated from sick and dying loved ones.
The Australian Open begins on 17 January in Melbourne. Djokovic has previously won the tournament nine times.