Djokovic and the Australia immigration system: What happened and why

Djokovic and the Australia immigration system: What happened and why

When Novak Djokovic tried to enter Australia, he became tangled in a complex system that many people are subject to, and very few have the fame and fortune to fight.

If a person comes to Australia and has any sort of mistake on their entry card, or that they seem to hold the wrong type of visa, they can be subject to a process called a “turn-around”.  If this happens, they are kept in a small room at the airport, are not permitted to call anyone, and given from a few minutes to a few hours to explain why their visa should not be cancelled. If they fail to convince the border official, their visa is immediately cancelled and they are put on the next flight back to their home country. They have no right to speak to a lawyer or to lodge any sort of appeal, because they officially have not entered the country.

We actually do not know how many people are subject to these “turn arounds”. They only seem to come to public attention when there are some sort of extraordinary circumstances, as in Djokovic’s case, where a famous person with money and power can make enough noise. Another time this happened was in 2018 when two French au pairs had their visas cancelled at the airport because they had arrived on tourist visas with no work rights, but intended to work. In that case, Minister Dutton personally intervened to allow them to stay after the person for whom the women were going to work (AFL boss Gillon McLaughlin) called him directly and asked him to allow the women into Australia (

What we want you to know is that this happens all the time.

Djokovic’s visa was cancelled because something was wrong (either he or his migration agent used incorrect information on his application for a visa). (Djokovic was not put on the next plane out of Australia because of his fame and money. He was allowed to cross the border through customs, even though his visa had been cancelled, and this gave him the right to appeal the cancellation. He immediately engaged lawyers, who filed an urgent injunction preventing him from being removed from Australia. In only five days, Djokovic’s case was heard and an appeal granted. Djokovic was detained in Melbourne’s Park Hotel, where refugees have been detained there by the Australian Government with little chance of release.

Refugees detained in Melbourne’s Park Hotel have not done anything wrong. They have not committed any crimes. Our legal system, our immigration law recognised these people of being in terrible danger of persecution in their home countries. Our laws and legal system accepts them as lawful, valid refugees. The reason they are held in indefinite detention is simply because they fled this imminent danger by getting on  a boat and asked Australia – us – to save their lives.

With the stroke of a pen, the Minister could instantly use a special power to immediately release them. But the Minister will not exercise this power.

The reason they are held in indefinite detention is because their lives are being used as political chess pieces by a Government whose xenophobic message resonates with many in our community. It is wedge politics at its worst, where the suffering of a few non-citizens is worth another four years in power.

Djokovic has returned home. The furore is abating. It will be forgotten soon, as the community deals with COVID, heat, storms, fires and Australians wining gold medals in the Winter Olympics. The community forgets. The Government knows this. And the refugees languishing in a hotel room, day after agonising day, know that they will be forgotten. Again.

If you are angry, good. Do something.

The election is coming. Many of you will be contacted by pollsters. Tell them how disgusted you are with these tactics even if they do not ask you about the migration or refugee policies.

Contact your Federal Member of Parliament. Tell them how angry you are. Keep calling them. Keep telling them. Do not let this slide away. Do not forget.

We are better than this.