After landing in Melbourne late on January 5, Novak Djokovic was questioned by An officer in the Ministry of Interior, from 21:00 on January 6, about the reason for his travel to the country. After explaining that he had come to play in the Australian Open, the officer asked him about his vaccination status. The quotes are from the text agreed between the parties and published by the Melbourne Federal Circuit Court on Monday.
– Interlocutor: Have you been vaccinated?
Djokovic: I am not a restaurant.
Interlocutor: Thank you. Have you ever had Covid?
Djokovic: Yes. I’ve had Covid twice… in June 2020 and recently – the test result was positive, PCR on December 16, 2021… and I also have the documents to confirm that. If you want I can provide.
The interview is then suspended while Djokovic’s documents are filmed. When he resumes at 00.35am Scientist 1 confirms that his manager has filled out his visa application and claims he has medical exemption to enter Australia from the federal government.
– Interlocutor: Well, this message here, the medical exemption is pretty much talking about a review panel by Tennis Australia, and it’s not talking about the federal government? But you sure are…
Djokovic: Yes, it was the operation, yes, the operation there were two independent plates … two medical plates … there was one that was definitely connected to the federal government.
Then the interview is suspended for a second time before it can be resumed. It turns out Djokovic is confused – and his exemption certificate is from the state government instead.
DJOKOVIC: Yes, I just checked with my agent… This certificate of exemption was submitted by an independent expert medical review panel commissioned by Tennis Australia, and the panel’s decision was reviewed and endorsed by the Victorian Government Victoria Independent Medical Exemption Review Panel.
– Interlocutor: You told me earlier that the government did this.
Djokovic: Yeah, me, me, well, maybe I got it wrong, it wasn’t the federal government, it was the Victorian government that picked the independent medical panel that reviewed with the Australian Open.
– Interlocutor: That’s totally fine, but it’s like you [inaudible] Come to Australia and it is largely governed by the federal government.
Djokovic: That’s what I understand. Do you need any additional documents from me?
– Interlocutor: Yes, if you claim that you have already received emails from the federal government … because, yes, we want to give you every opportunity to provide as much information as possible.
Djokovic: Right. Well, no, we have not received any emails from the federal government. That’s what we got from the Australian Open player’s medical team, because they’re the event organizers, so that’s what we got.
– Interlocutor: Well, that’s good.
Djokovic: And I’m sorry, I apologise.
The interview is then put on hold at 00:52 a.m., and Djokovic has to wait another three hours before resuming it at 3:55 a.m. Immediately issued with a notice of intent to consider canceling his visa.
Interlocutor: I will read all the information.
Djokovic: I don’t understand, are you canceling my visa, um?
INTERVIEWER: This is a notice of intent to consider revocation under Section 116 of the Immigration Act 1958. So as soon as I give you that notice, I’ll give you, you know, 20 minutes – or whatever if you need more time you can ask – and you need to Provide us with reasons why the visa should not be cancelled.
Djokovic: I mean, I really fail to understand what you want me to give you as well. I have submitted all the documents that the Australian Government and Victorian Tennis have asked me to do in the past 3/4 weeks and this is what we have been doing. My agent and I have been in frequent contact with the Australian Government of Victoria and Tennis, the Medical Commission…
Djokovic: They allowed medical exemption from the Covid vaccination. I applied, and they agreed, I don’t really know what you want me to say… I don’t really understand why I’m not allowed into your country – just mean, I’ve been waiting four hours and still failing, to understand what the main reason is – like – not having Leaves? Lack of what information do you need? or?
– Interlocutor: Yes, I will read you all the information and I will give you a copy of this as well …
Djokovic: So you’re legally giving me 20 minutes to try and provide additional information that I don’t have? At four in the morning? I mean you kind of put me in a very awkward situation where I can’t call the Tennis Australia manager at 4am, and I can’t do business with anyone from the Victorian state government through Tennis Australia. I just, you put me in a very uncomfortable situation. I don’t know what else I can tell you. I mean, everything I’ve been asked to do is here.
Djokovic: And I wouldn’t be here sitting in front of you if I didn’t abide by all the rules and regulations your government put in place. So I just – I don’t know what I mean – for me it’s a bit shocking, that you would give me a notice to cancel my visa based on what? If I can we wait for 8am and then I can call Tennis Australia and then we can try to figure it out. but now? They are all sleepy… I don’t know what I can do at this moment. So I really, legally know you’re following – but that just doesn’t make any sense. I mean I did everything I could. Now I can call my agent. You – you told me not to use my phone so I don’t communicate with anyone, and no one knows what’s going on.
Djokovic: But I really need to understand from you because you’ve been giving me very vague answers, or you haven’t had answers at all, for the past four hours…the intent to consider canceling, which I don’t really understand means.
The interviewer explains that under the 2015 Biosecurity Act there are requirements to enter Australian territory – and that previous infection with Covid-19 is not considered a medical contraindication to vaccination against Covid-19 in Australia.
Djokovic: Sorry to interrupt but that’s not true. The Victorian Government’s Independent Medical Commission has explicitly stated that if you have recovered or if you have tested positive for coronavirus and tested negative for coronavirus in the past six months and have had an adequate amount of antibodies, you are considered as part of the process of obtaining medical exemption. This is how I got it. I mean, I communicated directly with the Victorian state government, which is not true at all.
The interviewer then read a long statement to Djokovic, telling him that unvaccinated people pose a greater health risk of contracting Covid-19 and spreading Covid-19 to others, both of which will increase the burden on the Australian health system. He adds that if his visa is revoked, he could be banned from entering Australia for three years. Then he asks Djokovic to sign a document.
Djokovic: So I don’t really know what to do at 4 in the morning. If you let me turn on my phone and make a call to my agent and try to get people from the Australian Tennis Club. There is absolutely no way I would put myself in a position to come and sit here with you, and it would surely come to my attention, or the attention of my agent or the team of people around me, that the six-month Covid law was not in effect.
– Interlocutor: Well, but I need to go through with this process, so it’s okay if you don’t want to sign, but I’m going to make a copy of it, and I’ll give it to you, so I’ll just say you won’t sign.
Djokovic: Well, can you explain to me if you would let me get more information through my phone with my agent?
– Interlocutor: Not at this stage, as soon as I finish this interview or suspend this interview, I will come back and let you know.
The interview is then suspended for the fourth time at 4.23 a.m. before it begins nine minutes later. Djokovic has been told he can now use his phone.
The interview was again put on hold before resuming at 5.20am, when Djokovic was told he would be moved to a hotel in the city.
Djokovic: But this hotel? Does it look like a covid hotel or is it, what is it?
Interlocutor: No, it’s, I don’t know his name, it’s just a place… I think the department has contracted with the hotel to let people in… who have refused to enter the country to stay in the hotel there.
Djokovic: Right. Does this mean I can take my bags with me?
Interlocutor: First thing, I just wanted to see… What is your response to NOIC, notice of intent to cancel to consider cancellation, do you have something to say, why shouldn’t the visa, why don’t we consider canceling the credit card?
Djokovic once again states the reasons for allowing him to obtain a visa. The interview is then suspended for the sixth time at 6.14 am before resuming at 7.38 am. Djokovic is then notified that the Australian Government intends to revoke his visa under Section 116 of the Immigration Act 1958.
– Interlocutor: Other relevant agencies will be informed of the cancellation of your visa. Hmm, so here’s the notification and it’s 7:42 AM. Hmm, it’s up to you, your choice if you want to sign.
Interlocutor: All right. I’m just going to invite another female officer into the room and she’ll lock you up.
Reservation Officer: My name is Beck, I am an officer in the Australian Border Force. It has come to my attention that you are not an illegal citizen of Australia. Therefore, I will detain you under Section 189 (1) of the Immigration Act 1958 at 07:43 on January 6, 2022. Now I will leave you with my colleague.
Djokovic: Ah, just as for the next step, are you going to take me to a hotel?
– Interlocutor: Yes, the next step will be to take you to a hotel. This is where you will be staying, then inform the airline, and as soon as we have more information. Serco – it’s another agency that takes care of it – they will report you and then take you back to the airport.
Djokovic: Right. What airline are you – because, do I have any decision, where am I going or – travel? Because I can buy my own ticket to go back.
– Interlocutor: Yes – this – that’s right. The way it works pretty much no matter what airline you’ve flown with, we’ll let them know and it’s their responsibility. So you came with…
Djokovic: Emirates, yes, so we’ll be back in Dubai.
Journalist: Yes. So if you have no more questions, yes, I will stop this interview.
Interviewer: Well, the interview will stop at 7:45 am on January 6, 2022.
Djokovic was then transferred to a government detention hotel.