Novak Djokovic held by airport security as border force grill star over visa application

'No special rules for Novak Djokovic', says Australian Prime Minister

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Novak Djokovic’s participation in the Australian Open is once again in doubt after he was stopped at the border due to a discrepancy with his travel visa. The Serbian is being questioned by federal officials after apparently trying to enter the country with documents which do not support medical exemptions from vaccination.

After months of speculation over whether or not Djokovic would be allowed to travel to Melbourne for the first Grand Slam of the year, he shared positive news with fans earlier this week.

He took to social media to announce he had been given an “exemption permission” to travel, and said he would be flying across the world that day.

His participation had previously been in doubt as all travellers must be fully vaccinated to enter the state of Victoria, and the world number one has repeatedly refused to reveal whether or not he has had the jab.

And now the situation has taken a dramatic twist, with several reporters on the ground saying Djokovic has been held at border control.

His plane landed at around 12.30pm UK time on Wednesday but, according to locally-based political reporter Paul Sakkal, officials had noticed several hours beforehand that something was not quite right with his paperwork.

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When they noticed the issue, the Border Force contacted Victorian officials to sponsor the visa so he could be allowed to enter.

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However, Victoria’s acting sports minister Jaala Pulford confirmed on social media that they would not be supporting that request.

“The Federal Government has asked if we will support Novak Djokovic’s visa application to enter Australia,” she wrote on Twitter.

“We will not be providing Novak Djokovic with individual visa application support to participate in the 2022 Australian Open Grand Slam.

“We’ve always been clear on two points: visa approvals are a matter for the Federal Government, and medical exemptions are a matter for doctors.”

After a long flight, Djokovic is being held at Melbourne Airport and questioned by officials in the early hours of the morning.

It comes after an extremely negative response to the player’s announcement that he had been granted a special medical exemption to be able to bypass vaccination rules.

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Locals in Victoria, who have had to abide by some of the strictest and longest running lockdown rules in the world, were up in arms over someone who has not proven their vaccination status apparently being able to enter the state freely.

And other players who have not been given such an exemption were also critical, with many suggesting his stature in the game had been a factor.

In the face of such a strong, global reaction, Australian prime minister Scott Morrison said Djokovic would be sent packing if he could not provide sufficient evidence that he was worthy of such an exemption.

“There should be no special rules for Novak Djokovic at all, none whatsoever,” Morrison said.

“He has to because if he’s not vaccinated, he must provide acceptable proof that he cannot be vaccinated for medical reasons and to be able to access the same travel arrangements, as fully vaccinated travellers.”

Djokovic’s repeated refusal to confirm whether or not he has had the jab makes the situation more difficult, as providing information proving why he is exempt from being vaccinated would answer that question.

In any case, Australian Open tournament director Craig Tiley has said the situation would be much more simple and clear if the Serbian was able to shed a little more light on the situation.

“We completely understand and empathise that some would have been upset by the fact that Novak Djokovic has come in because of his statements around vaccination in the past couple of years,” he told reporters.

“We would love…Novak to talk about it and help us with it, but ultimately it’s going to be up to him. We aren’t in a position, even legally, to disclose other people’s medical information.”

Meanwhile, a statement from Australia’s minister for home affair Karen Andrews suggests Djokovic will be receiving no special treatment from Border Force officials.

“Australian Border Force will continue to ensure that those who arrive at our border comply with our strict border requirements,” she said.

“No individual competing at the Australian Open will be afforded any special treatment.”

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