Sunderland sport and ethics expert gives his verdict on tennis star Novak Djokovic visa controversy
An expert in sport and ethics at the city’s university believes Novak Djokovic has a “legitimate complaint” regarding the process leading to his entry visa to Australia being revoked over question marks about his vaccination status.
The world number one tennis player had arrived in Melbourne to play in the Australian Open but was refused entry after border officials said he had "failed to provide appropriate evidence” around what is believed to be his vaccination status and right to medical exemption.
Djokovic had travelled under the belief he had been granted medical exemption by two independent medical panels organised by Tennis Australia, the body that runs the event, and Victoria state.
Dr Paul Davis from the University of Sunderland believes Djokovic, who is currently in a government detention hotel, has a right to feel aggrieved over the process which has led to this situation.
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He said: “The question of process must be sharply disaggregated from the credentials of the current decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa.
“The sequence of events is undeniably a disassembled mess. The Victorian government, ATAGI (Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immigration) and the national government in the shape of the Australian Border Force have not acted in a joined-up manner.
"Should this have happen in Britain, many people would trumpet it as the latest illustration of slapstick British bureaucracy.
“Djokovic seems to have a legitimate complaint about the process to which he has been subject, and a thorough review of procedures is surely required. If the current decision stands, compensation to Djokovic is also a plausible expectation.”
The Serbian player, who has previously said he is opposed to vaccination, had been granted medical exemption to play in the tournament for unspecified reasons - a decision that infuriated many Australians who have endured one of the world’s toughest lockdowns.
While Dr Davis has questioned the process which has led to Djokovic becoming the attention of world scrutiny, he doesn’t necessarily disagree with the ultimate decision.
He added: “These inconvenient truths are irrelevant to whether the current decision is correct. If, for instance, the Australian Border Force are to be the final arbiters of who is granted a medical exemption from vaccination requirements, and they conclude that Djokovic should not be granted an exemption, then Djokovic should not be granted an exemption.
"While procedures need to be clear, they must naturally be applied consistently and with accuracy.”
After Djokovic arrived in the country, Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison had stressed that “rules are rules” and thanked the Border Force for implementing Government policy, reiterating that entry with a visa requires “double vaccination or medical exemption”.
Dr Davis added: “Dangers are present in cases such as this. Governments zealous to confirm equality before the law might be improperly motivated, courting precipitate decisions and unhelpfully populist pronouncements.
"Without knowing the details of Djokovic’s exemption application, it is not possible to know if this could be the case here.”
The tennis star is currently awaiting deportation but has launched an urgent court challenge to be heard on Monday (January 10), a week before the Australian Open begins.