Novak Djokovic will remain in a Melbourne quarantine hotel for asylum-seekers and refugees after authorities on Wednesday denied him entry to Australia and canceled his visa.
According to The Telegraph, Novak is being held at The Park Hotel in the center of Melbourne’s Carlton neighborhood, along with over two dozen other people waiting to be allowed into the country.
Conditions at the quarantine hotel are reportedly very poor, and subject to multiple outbreaks of Covid-19. Australia’s SBS News most recently criticized how refugees and asylum-seekers were treated at the hotel, sharing pictures of food containing mold and maggots.
“They’re keeping him in captivity,” said Novak’s father Srdjan Djokovic. “They’re stomping all over Novak to stomp all over Serbia and Serbian people.”
“This has nothing to do with sports, this is a political agenda,” Srdjan continued. “Novak is the best player and the best athlete in the world, but several hundred million people from the West can’t stomach that.”
The tennis pro claimed on Wednesday that he was given a “medical exemption” from receiving the Covid-19 vaccine to compete in the Australian Open. Nevertheless, he was unable to provide the necessary documents for admission into the country.
Authorities are now working with Tennis Australia, which confirmed that the defending champion was granted exemption to compete. Meanwhile, the government argues that the border enforces Covid-19 protocols, threatening to deport Djokovic back to Serbia.
“The rule is very clear,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said. “You need to have a medical exemption. He didn’t have a valid medical exemption. We make the call at the border, and that’s where it’s enforced.”
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic got involved Thursday, as well, asking that Novak should at least be able to move to a house that he rented instead of the “infamous hotel” with poor living conditions for refugees.
“I feel terrible since yesterday that they are keeping him as a prisoner,” said Novak’s mother, Dijana. “It’s not fair. It’s not human. I hope that he will win.”
“Terrible, terrible accommodation,” she said of the quarantine hotel after speaking with her son. “It’s just some small immigration hotel, if it’s hotel at all.”
Since Australia’s refusal yesterday, questions have swirled about the validity of Tennis Australia’s “medical exemption” and why the tournament backed away from its vaccination policy in order to let Novak compete.
According to ESPN, letters sent in November from the Department of Health to Tennis Australia indicated that Djokovic didn’t meet the standard for unvaccinated members to enter the country quarantine-free as defined by the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunization.
Tennis Australia went along with its independent Victoria panel, later deciding to grant Novak the medical exemption. Critics also questioned what grounds Novak had for the exemption, which the tennis pro had yet to share with the public.
If Novak Djokovic had gotten fully vaccinated, he would have surely been able to enter the country, but the world No. 1 previously stated that he was against any organization forcing him to get the vaccine just to travel. Now stuck in a quarantine hotel full of health and safety issues, he now faces greater exposure to the virus than ever before.
He previously tested positive for the virus back in June 2020 during exhibition matches that he organized in Serbia and Croatia.
“Free Novak” signs blended in with protesters holding “end cruelty and demonization of refugees” banners in the hodgepodge demonstration held Thursday morning outside the quarantine hotel. Supporters of the tennis pro protested the cancellation of his visa, while some members of the crowd lit candles and waved the Serbian flag.
“Rules are rules, especially when it comes to our borders,” PM Morrison tweeted. “No one is above these rules.”