Novak Djokovic has won an appeal against a decision to refuse him a visa ahead of the Australian Open.
The 34-year-old Serbian and World No.1 arrived in Australia late on Wednesday January 5, after declaring he had a medical reason not to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Djokovic was taken to immigration detention after having his visa cancelled early on Thursday morning.
A Federal Court challenge to overturn the decision was launched and, on Monday, was ruled in Djokovic’s favour.
But in a legal hearing at the Federal Circuit Court of Australia, Judge Anthony Kelly quashed the visa cancellation and ordered the Australian Government to pay legal costs and release Djokovic from detention within half an hour.
Djokovic, 34, will now be free to leave the Park Hotel in Carlton – where he has spent the last four nights alongside refugees and detainees – by 7pm local time.
But Government lawyer Christopher Tran told the judge after the ruling that the minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, Alex Hawke, ‘will consider whether to exercise a personal power of cancelation.’
That would mean Djokovic could again face deportation and could miss the Australian Open, which starts on January 17.
Djokovic had argued that a recent positive Covid-19 test qualified him for the medical exception from the country’s requirement for all visitors to be double vaccinated.
The Australian government, however, had argued that non-citizens had no right of guaranteed entry to Australia and stressed that even if the Serbian won the court action, it reserved the right to detain him again and remove him from the country.
Earlier in the day, Djokovic was removed from detention to be with his lawyers during the hearing, and Judge Anthony Kelly expressed agitation over the rejection of Djokovic’s medical exemption.
Djokovic’s lawyers presented their arguments to the court, but government lawyer Mr Tran only spoke for half an hour before a lengthy adjournment.
During that break, the two parties agreed on the minutes of Judge Kelly’s order.
The minutes note Djokovic was not given adequate time to respond to the notification to cancel his visa.
The hearing was delayed by technical issues with the court’s video link, but Djokovic’s lawyers argued their case to Judge Kelly, who asked the court ‘What more could this man have done?’ and said he was ‘agitated’ about the issue of Djokovic’s medical exemption.