(CNN) — Novak Djokovic’s Australian visa has been revoked for the second time, nearly ending the world’s number one male tennis player’s ambitions to contest the Australian Open and win his record 21st Grand Slam.
Immigration Minister Alex Hawke announced the decision in a statement on Friday, after days of deliberation over whether to expel the Serbian star from the country.
It is unclear if Australia will take steps to deport Djokovic, as his legal team may still challenge the decision.
“Today I exercised my power under section 133C(3) of the Migration Act to cancel Mr. Novak Djokovic’s visa on grounds of health and good order, on the basis that it was in the public interest to do so,” the statement said.
“In making this decision, I have carefully considered information provided to me by the Department of the Interior, the Australian Border Force and Mr. Djokovic. The Morrison Government is strongly committed to protecting Australia’s borders, particularly in relation to the covid-19 pandemic”.
The decision comes four days after a judge ruled that Australian Border Force (ABF) officers had been “unreasonable” when they canceled his initial visa to enter Australia upon his arrival in the country on January 5. The judge ordered that Djokovic be released from an immigration detention center within 30 minutes of the decision.
New twist in the Djokovic case
Friday’s decision is the latest twist in a saga that has grabbed global headlines and put Australia’s Covid-19 and immigration policies under scrutiny.
Under current Australian law, everyone arriving in the country from abroad must be vaccinated against covid-19 — which Djokovic is not — unless they have a medical exemption.
Djokovic said he was under the impression he could get in because two independent panels had granted him an exemption on the grounds that he had been infected with covid-19 in December. The government argued that a previous infection did not prevent him from getting vaccinated.
Despite Monday’s ruling, the Immigration Minister retained the ministerial power to personally intervene in the case and ultimately had the final say on whether Djokovic would be allowed to stay, although his decision can be appealed.
In his ruling, the judge noted that if Djokovic had been deported, he would have been banned from entering Australia for three years. However, this can be avoided in special circumstances.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the minister’s decision to cancel Djokovic’s visa protected the “sacrifices” Australia had made during the pandemic.
In a statement, Morrison said “the pandemic has been incredibly difficult for all Australians, but we have stood together and saved lives and livelihoods.”
“Australians have made many sacrifices during this pandemic, and they rightly expect the outcome of those sacrifices to be protected,” he said. “This is what the minister is doing by taking this action today.”