After landing in Melbourne on 6 January, Novak Djokovic is questioned by Sudhir R, an officer of the Department of Home Affairs, about why he has travelled to the country. After clarifying that he has come to play in the Australian Open, the officer asks him about his vaccination status. The quotes are taken from the transcript agreed between both parties and released by the Federal Circuit Court in Melbourne on Monday.
INTERVIEWER: Are you vaccinated?
DJOKOVIC: I am not vaccinated.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. Have you ever had Covid?
DJOKOVIC: Yes. I had Covid twice … in June 2020 and recently – I was tested positive, PCR 16th of December 2021 … I have the documents as well to confirm that. If you want I can provide.
The interview is then suspended while Djokovic’s documents are photocopied. When it resumes at 00.35am, the world No1 confirms that his manager filled in his visa application and claims that he has a medical exemption to enter Australia from the federal government.
INTERVIEWER: OK, so this letter here, medical exemption pretty much talks about a review panel by Tennis Australia, it doesn’t talk about the federal government? But you are sure definitely …
DJOKOVIC: Yes, the process was, yes, the process there was two indepen … two medical panels … there was one that was related to the federal government for sure.
The interview is then suspended for a second time before recommencing. It turns out that Djokovic has got confused – and exemption certificate he has is from the state government instead.
DJOKOVIC: Yes, so I just checked with my agent … this certificate for exemption has been provided by independent expert medical review panel commissioned by Tennis Australia and the decision of the panel has been reviewed and endorsed by independent medical exemption review panel of the Victorian state government.
INTERVIEWER: So previously you said to me that it was done by the government.
DJOKOVIC: Yes, I, I, well I probably made a mistake, it was not the federal government, it was the Victorian government that had selected the independent medical panel that has reviewed together with the Australian Open.
INTERVIEWER: That’s absolutely fine, but the thing is like you [inaudible] come to Australia and it is pretty much governed by Federal government.
DJOKOVIC: This I understand. So do you need any additional documents from me?
INTERVIEWER: Yeah, if you are claiming that you did receive emails from federal government … because, yeah, we want to give you every opportunity to provide as much information as you can.
DJOKOVIC: All right. OK, so no we did not get any emails from the federal government. This is what we got from the Australian Open player medical team, because they are the organisers of the event, so this is what we got.
INTERVIEWER: OK, that’s fine.
DJOKOVIC: And I am sorry, I apologise.
The interview is then suspended at 00:52am, and Djokovic has to wait another three hours before it resumes at 3:55am. Immediately he is issued with a notice of intention to consider cancellation of his visa.
INTERVIEWER: So I’m just going to read out all the information.
DJOKOVIC: I don’t understand, you’re cancelling my visa, or?
INTERVIEWER: This is a notice of intention to consider cancellation under s 116 of the Migration Act 1958. So once I serve this notice to you I will give you like, you know, 20 minutes – or whatever if you need more time you can request that – and you need to provide us reasons why we shouldn’t cancel the visa.
DJOKOVIC: I mean, I am really failing to understand what else do you want me to provide to you. I have provided all the documents that Tennis Australia and Victorian government has asked me to do in the last three/four weeks, this is what we have been doing. My agent and I have been in a constant communication with Tennis Australia and Victorian state government, the medical panel… INTERVIEWER: Yep.
DJOKOVIC: They have allowed to have the medical exemption for the Covid vaccination. I applied, they approved, I just really don’t know what else do you want me to say … I just really don’t understand what is the reason you don’t allow me to enter your country – just I mean, I have been waiting four hours and I still fail to, to understand what’s the main reason – like – lack of what papers? Lack of what information do you need? Or?
INTERVIEWER: Ah yep, so I am just going to read out all of the information to you and I’m going to give you a copy of this as well …
DJOKOVIC: So you’re giving me legally 20 minutes to try to provide additional information that I don’t have? At 4 o clock in the morning? I mean you kind of put me in a very awkward position where at 4 in the morning I can’t call director of Tennis Australia, I can’t engage with anybody from the Victorian state government through Tennis Australia. I just you put me in a very uncomfortable position. I don’t know what else can I tell you. I mean everything that that they – I was asked to do is here.
DJOKOVIC: And I wouldn’t be here sitting in front of you if I if I wasn’t complying to all the rules and regulations set by your government. So I just – I don’t know what I I mean – to me it is a little bit shocking that you are have – that you are going to give me the notice to cancel my visa based on what? If you can, we wait for 8 in the morning and then I can call Tennis Australia and then we can try and figure this out. But right now? They’re all sleepy… I don’t know what else I can do at this moment. So I really, I know legally you’re following – but it just doesn’t make any sense. I mean I have done everything I possibly can. Right now I can call my agent. You – you told me not to use my phone, so I’m not communicating with anybody, 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 literally no answers at all, for the last four hours… the intention to consider to cancel, which I don’t really understand what it means.
The interviewer explains that under the Biosecurity Act 2015, there are requirements for entry into Australian territory – and that previous infection with COVID-19 is not considered a medical contraindication for COVID-19 vaccination in Australia.
DJOKOVIC: Sorry to interrupt but that’s not true. The independent medical panel of Victorian state government has stated explicitly that that that if you have recovered or if you had the positive test of coronavirus and negative test of coronavirus in the last six months and you have a sufficient amount of antibodies, you’re you’re considered to be part of the the the process of getting a medical exemption. That’s how I got it. I mean I communicated directly with the Victorian state government, that’s absolutely not true.
The interviewer then reads out a long statement to Djokovic, telling him that unvaccinated persons create a greater health risk of contracting Covid-19 and spreading Covid-19 to others, either of which will further burden the Australian health system. He adds that if his Visa is cancelled he maybe prevented from entering Australia for three years. He then asks Djokovic to sign a document.
DJOKOVIC: So I don’t know really what to do at 4am. If you allow me to switch on my phone and make a call to my agent and try and get a hold of people from Tennis Australia.There’s absolutely no way I would put myself in a position to come and sit here with you and it would definitely come to my attention, the attention of my agent or the team of people around me that the six months Covid regulation was not in place.
INTERVIEWER: That’s fine, but I need to go through this process, and so, that’s fine if you don’t want to sign it, but I will still, I will make a photocopy of it, I will give it to you, so I’m just going to say you’re not going to sign.
DJOKOVIC: OK so can you just explain to me whether you will allow me to acquire more information from through my phone with my agent? INTERVIEWER: So not at this stage, once I finish off this or suspend this interview I will come back and I will let you know.
The interview is then suspended for a fourth time at 4.23am before recommencing nine minutes later. Djokovic is told he can now use his phone.
The interview is again suspended before resuming at 5.20am, when Djokovic is told that he will be moved to a hotel in the city.
DJOKOVIC: But that hotel? Is it like a Covid hotel or is it what is it?
INTERVIEWER: No, it’s, I don’t know the name of it, it’s just a place … I’m guessing the department has contracted with the hotel to allow people in … who’s refused entry to the country to stay at the hotel there.
DJOKOVIC: OK. So does that mean I can take my bags with me or?
INTERVIEWER: First thing is, I just wanted to see… what’s your response to the NOIC, notice of intention to cancel to consider cancellation, so do you have anything to say, why the visa shouldn’t, why shouldn’t we consider cancelling the visa?
Djokovic again states his reasons why he should be allowed his visa. The interview is then suspended for a sixth time at 6.14am before resuming at 7.38am. Djokovic is then notified that the Australian government intends to cancel his visa under section 116 of the Migration Act 1958.
INTERVIEWER: Other relevant agencies will be advised that your visa has been cancelled. Um, so this is the notification and the time is 7:42 am. Um, up to you, your choice if you wish to sign.
INTERVIEWER: That’s fine. I’m just gonna invite another officer into the room and she’s gonna detain you.
DETAINING OFFICER: My name is Beck, I’m an officer of the Australian Border Force. It has come to my attention that you are an unlawful non-citizen in Australia. 20 Therefore, I am detaining you under section 189(1) of the Migration Act of 1958 at 07:43 hours on the sixth of January 2022. Now I’ll leave you with my colleague.
DJOKOVIC: Ah, just regarding the next step am I going to be escorted to a hotel?
INTERVIEWER: Yeah so, the next step is gonna be you would be escorted to a hotel. That’s where you will stay, and then inform the airline, and once we get some more information. SERCO – it’s another agency who takes care of it – they’ll inform you and then they’ll bring you back to the airport.
DJOKOVIC: OK. Which airline are you – because I, do I have any, decision in where I’m gonna go or – travel? Because I can buy my own ticket to go back.
INTERVIEWER: Yeah – that – that’s right. Pretty much the way it works whichever airline you flew with, we’ll inform them and it’s their responsibility. So you came with… DJOKOVIC: Emirates, yeah, so will go back to Dubai.
NTERVIEWER: Yep. So if you don’t have any more questions, yeah, I’ll just cease this interview.
INTERVIEWER: All right, so the interview is being ceased at 7:45 am on 6 January 2022.
Djokovic is then taken to a government detention hotel.