Djokovic did not have guaranteed entry to Australia, government lawyers say

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 (AFP via Getty Images)
(AFP via Getty Images)

Novak Djokovic had not been given assurance that his medical exemption to enter Autralia without a Covid-19 vaccination would be accepted, government lawyers said in a court filing on Sunday.

The 20-times grand slam champion was detained earlier this week after being denied entry into the country to defend his Australian Open title in Melbourne.

The 34-year-old was initially granted a medical exemption from vaccination requirements to compete in the tournament.

However, following a public backlash, he was taken by border officials from the city’s Tullamarine airport to a detention hotel.

Djokovic is now in a quarantine hotel after his lawyers secured an agreement for him to stay in the country ahead of a court hearing on Monday, in which he hopes to overturn the federal government ban.

His legal team said he had the necessary permissions to enter Australia, including an assessment from the Department of Home Affairs that responses on his travel declaration form indicated he met the conditions for quarantine-free arrival.

The government has disputed this.

“This is because there is no such thing as an assurance of entry by a non-citizen into Australia. Rather, there are criteria and conditions for entry, and reasons for refusal or cancellation of a visa,” its filing said.

It said the department’s email was not an assurance "that his so-called ‘medical exemption’ would be accepted", and his responses could be questioned and verified on his arrival.

The government also challenged Djokovic’s claim for a medical exemption on the basis he had contracted Covid-19 and had recovered two weeks later.

“There is no suggestion that the applicant had "acute major medical illness" in December 2021. All he has said is that he tested positive for Covid-19. This is not the same," the filing said.

Australia says its health department notified tournament organising body Tennis Australia in November that a recent Covid-19 infection was not necessary grounds for exemption in the country.

Djokovic’s lawsuit says the Department of Home Affairs wrote to him this month to say he had satisfied the requirements to enter the country.

The tennis star’s lawyers will have up to two hours to present their case from 10 a.m. (11pm GMT on Sunday) on Monday, while the government department gets two hours to present its defence from 3 p.m. The case is being heard by the Federal Circuit and Family Court.

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