Letter from Novak Djokovic never seen by Victorian government before vaccine exemption

The hotel where Novak Djokovic is being held. Photo: David Crosling

Victorian-era Acting Prime Minister Jacinta Allan says no one in state government has seen an explosive correspondence between the Commonwealth and Tennis Australia as the blame game continues in the debacle of Novak Djokovic.

The world number 1 spent the night in immigrant detention after his visa was refused upon arriving at Melbourne airport to play at the Australian Open, due to his lack of a valid medical exemption for not have been vaccinated.

The Serbian tennis star has been reported to be relying on previously having had Covid for this “clearance,” which was announced in a post on his Instagram on Tuesday.

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As the fiasco escalated Thursday, two letters were sent in November by Minister of Health Greg Hunt and the Commonwealth Department of Health to the CEO of Tennis Australia.

The letters said people who had tested positive for Covid-19 in the past six months did not qualify for exemption to enter the country, casting doubt on why Djokovic had been granted an exemption to play in the tournament.

Acting Prime Minister Jacinta Allan said the Victorian government had not seen the documents.  Photo: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw
Acting Prime Minister Jacinta Allan said the Victorian government had not seen the documents. Photo: NCA NewsWire / Andrew Henshaw

Ms Allen said on Friday she was told Victorian government officials had not seen this correspondence.

“We wouldn’t necessarily see it, but it reinforces that point that it is the Commonwealth Government … that is responsible for issuing visas and how it engages in this dialogue with Tennis Australia,” a- she told reporters.

“The role of the Victorian government here as the city and state that hosts the Australian Open is to organize a safe event. That was the main goal – to have all the arrangements in place for the event to run smoothly and safely. “

Health panels set up by Tennis Australia and the Victorian government granted Djokovic an exemption to participate in the tournament, triggering a massive backlash from the public.

Ms Allan said the role of the Victorian government panel was “very distinct from the visa process” and could only assess the eligibility of a medical exemption for unvaccinated players and support staff to participate in the tournament.

“How the people participating in this event enter the country is up to the Commonwealth government which is responsible for issuing visas,” she said.

Djokovic arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday to defend his Australian Open crown, but was detained by the Australian Border Force shortly after for failing to qualify for entry.

Supporters gathered outside the hotel where he is being held on Thursday as he challenges his deportation in court.

Novak's supporters have gathered outside the hotel where he is being held.  Photo: Alex Coppel
Novak’s supporters have gathered outside the hotel where he is being held. Photo: Alex Coppel

Protesters, which include Djokovic fans as well as members of the anti-vaccine mandate crowd, are scheduled to assemble the Park Hotel in Carlton in Melbourne on Thursday at noon.

On Friday, a small group of protesters campaigning for refugee rights returned to the Rydges Hotel on Swanston Street, where tennis star Novak Djokovic is being held while his legal stoush with border officials unfolds.

After swarms of anti-vaccine protesters and refugee activists descended on the detention center on Thursday evening, law enforcement units supervised the group standing outside the hotel.

About eight refugee activists held signs saying “no crime, no time” and “seeking asylum is a human right”.

They could be heard chanting: “Free, free, refugees” on several occasions.

Meanwhile, Victoria Police officers patrolled the hotel perimeter.

About 50 people showed up at the hotel to support Djokovic, holding tennis racquets and Serbian flags.

Novak Djokovic requested an exemption on the grounds that he already had Covid.  Aurélien Meunier / Getty Images
Novak Djokovic requested an exemption on the grounds that he already had Covid. Aurélien Meunier / Getty Images

The group drew curious onlookers who stood across the road, taking photos.

A pair of bikers surrounded the crowd with the Serbian flag strapped to the back of their bikes.

Some passing cars honked their horns to support the refugee activists. A protester was also seen carrying an umbrella painted with the words “sack Dan” and “kill the bill”.

Border force officials yesterday released a statement about the saga and confirmed that the tennis star failed to provide adequate evidence.

“The ABF can confirm that Mr Djokovic failed to provide adequate evidence to meet the requirements for entry into Australia and his visa was subsequently canceled,” the Australian Border Force said on Thursday.

“Non-nationals who do not hold a valid visa on entry or whose visa has been canceled will be detained and deported from Australia.”

Members of the local Serbian community gather for a vigil outside a hotel where the tennis champion is standing.  Photo: William West / AFP
Members of the local Serbian community gather for a vigil outside a hotel where the tennis champion is standing. Photo: William West / AFP

Djokovic is now in immigration detention at the hotel pending the outcome of a high-stakes legal battle with Australian authorities to avoid his days of deportation from the tennis tournament.

Asylum seekers’ advocates and refugee protesters also gathered outside the hotel to demonstrate separately for those held there, with some people climbing a canopy and painting slogans on the building.

Djokovic’s family launched an extraordinary attack on Scott Morrison as they protested his treatment in Australia, with his father comparing his son’s predicament to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.

Even Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic intervened, claiming the star was the victim of a “political witch hunt”.

The Federal Circuit and Family Court challenge to the federal government’s decision to expel Djokovic from Australia has been adjourned until Monday.

Home Secretary Karen Andrews refuted claims by Djokovic’s family that he was being held captive on Friday morning.

“Well, may I say, first of all, that Mr. Djokovic is not being held captive in Australia. He is free to go anytime he chooses to do so and the Border Force will actually facilitate that, ”she told the CBA.

Novak Djokovic refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19.  Photo: Clive Brunskill / Getty Images
Novak Djokovic refused to be vaccinated against Covid-19. Photo: Clive Brunskill / Getty Images

She also confirmed that a visa had been issued to Djokovic but that he had not met the entry requirements.

“Yes, a visa has been issued – that’s actually not the problem. This is the second part of this process, which corresponds to the specific entry requirements to be able to cross the Australian border and enter Australia legally, ”she said.

Ms Andrews said investigations were underway for two other people associated with tennis.

“I am aware of investigations involving two people carried out by Australian border forces,” she said.

“They are going through their investigative process.

“And at some point they will brief me, but all I can absolutely assure you and the rest of Australia is that the Australian Border Force will absolutely take the appropriate action.

“So they are conducting their investigations and they will take appropriate action. “

– additional reporting by Olivia Jenkins

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