Tennis star Novak Djokovic had his visa to enter Australia drastically revoked upon arrival in Melbourne.
The world’s number one was detained at the city’s airport for several hours before border forces announced that he had not complied with entry rules and would be deported.
He has now reportedly been taken to a government detention hotel pending his departure on an outbound flight.
The developments come amid backlash over a vaccine exemption Djokovic said he was able to play at the Australian Open.
Djokovic has not spoken about his vaccination status, but last year he said that he is “opposed to vaccination.”
Tennis Australia confirmed that the player had been granted a medical exemption “after a rigorous review process involving two separate independent panels”, but problems arose after Djokovic arrived in Melbourne on Wednesday night from Dubai.
In a statement, the Australian Border Force said that Djokovic “did not provide adequate evidence to meet Australia’s entry requirements, and his visa was subsequently canceled.”
“Non-citizens who do not have a valid visa upon entry or who have canceled their visa will be detained and expelled from Australia,” he added.
Victoria’s acting sports minister tweeted that the state had refused to back his visa application amid the confusion.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has denied that Djokovic is being singled out and said no one was above the country’s rules. At a news conference Thursday, Morrison said he had been informed that there was no medical exemption for the player’s entry and said the evidence provided “was deemed insufficient.”
Local reports suggest that Djokovic could file a legal appeal or apply for a new visa in order to re-enter and play in the tournament.
Reuters reports that he was later taken from the airport to a hotel in Melbourne’s suburb of Carlton, which is used for immigration detention. The facility has been the site of Covid-19 outbreaks and a recent fire, according to local media.
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Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt previously described Djokovic’s treatment as “harsh” but “fair” and said “it is a rule for everyone under this Australian government.”
But the tennis star’s treatment has sparked outrage in his native Serbia. His father, Srdjan Djokovic, said his son had been held in a room guarded by police at the airport.
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“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 the victim of “harassment” and said “all of Serbia” supported him.
Australia is seeing tens of thousands of Covid-19 cases for the first time after enduring some of the strictest restrictions in the world. More than 90% of the Australian population over the age of 16 is fully vaccinated, but some people are still unable to travel between states or around the world due to current measures.
Many Australians had previously accused the government of allowing the rich and famous to do whatever they wanted while ordinary people were separated from their sick and dying loved ones.
The Australian Open begins on January 17 in Melbourne. Djokovic has previously won the tournament nine times.