Novak Djokovic could be detained by armed border forces while he's on court, a former top Australian immigration official warned

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Novak Djokovic could be detained by armed border forces while he's on court, a former top Australian immigration official warned
Novak Djokovic.Getty/Graham Denholm
  • Novak Djokovic could be detained on the tennis court by armed border forces if his visa is revoked again.
  • That's according to Abul Rizvi, Australia's former deputy secretary of immigration.

Novak Djokovic could be detained by armed border forces while he's on court if his visa is cancelled again, a former top immigration in Australia official has warned.

Djokovic has been seeded first in the men's draw for the Australian Open and will face countryman Miomir Kecmanovic in the first round on Monday.

But the world number one still faces deportation amid an investigation by the Australian Border Force into false information he provided on his travel declaration form when entering the country earlier this month.

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Djokovic confirmed on the form that he had not travelled or would not travel in the 14 days prior to his flight to Australia on January 4, but social media posts have since emerged placing him in Belgrade on December 25 and then in Spain on December 31.

Australia's minister for immigration and migrant services, Alex Hawke, is set to make a decision as to whether to revoke Djokovic's visa for a second time in light of the investigation. He is expected to make a decision in the coming days.

If Hawke chooses to cancel the visa, Djokovic could even be detained while he's playing tennis. That's according to Abul Rizvi, who was the deputy secretary of Australia's Department of Immigration from 2005 to 2007.

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The 34-year-old has been practicing at Melbourne Park since Monday after he won a court battle to reinstate his visa, which was initially cancelled when he arrived in Australia on January 5.

Rizvi told Channel 10's "The Project": "He [Hawke] would then have cancellation notice taken by Australian Border Force, who usually dress in very, very dark uniforms and often carry guns, turning up to Mr. Djokovic's hotel or on the tennis court."

Rizvi added that border forces would then have to take Djokovic "away from the tennis court, most probably in the glare of the world's media to a detention centre" where he "would remain whilst he sought any application for judicial or other review processes."

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That, Rizvi said, could see Djokovic in detention while the Australian Open is going on.

"There is no easy option here. Cancellation is difficult and not canceling is difficult," he said.

On top of being deported, Djokovic could also face jail

On the forms Djokovic filled in prior to his flight to Australia, there is a declaration which warns people that providing false information carries a maximum penalty of a year in prison.

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"Giving false or misleading information to the Australian Government is a serious offense. If convicted, the maximum penalty is imprisonment for 12 months," the Australian government's travel declaration website states.

Djokovic has admitted providing false information on his forms, however was quick to blame his agent, who he says filled them out on his behalf.

"My agent sincerely apologizes for the administrative mistake in ticking the incorrect box about my previous travel before coming to Australia," he said in a statement posted to Instagram on Wednesday.

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"This was a human error and certainly not deliberate. We are living in challenging times in a global pandemic and sometimes these mistakes can occur."

Djokovic could also face time in prison in his native Serbia after he admitted attending a media interview and photoshoot in Belgrade on December 18 just two days after testing positive for COVID-19.

He said he attended the event because he felt "obliged" to do so, but called the decision an "error of judgement."

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According to Article 248 of the Criminal Code of Republic of Serbia, "failure to comply with health measures during an epidemic of dangerous contagious disease designed to suppress or prevent the disease" carries a maximum punishment of three years in prison.

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