The Serbian Foreign Ministry has denounced Australia’s decision to cancel the visa of tennis star Novak Djokovic, saying the world number 1 was the victim of a political game.
Australian Ambassador to Belgrade Daniel Emery was summoned to the ministry and urged to make personal efforts to help Djokovic.
The federal government on Thursday canceled Djokovic’s visa to enter the country for the Australian Open because he did not meet the vaccination requirements required for entry.
The Serbian ministry said Australia had acted in bad faith towards the tennis star.
“Starovic underlined that the Serbian public has a strong impression that Djokovic is the victim of a political game against his will, and that he has been lured to Australia to be humiliated,” the ministry statement said.
“Novak Djokovic is not a criminal, terrorist or illegal migrant, but he has been treated this way by Australian authorities, causing understandable outrage from his fans and citizens of Serbia.”
A protest note was also sent by the Serbian government to its embassy in Canberra, following the visa decision.
The Serbian superstar has claimed he has a vaccination exemption allowing him to travel to Australia.
But it appears he only had an exemption provided by Tennis Australia and the Victorian government to enter the competition.
Djokovic is being held in a hotel in north Melbourne pending a legal challenge to his visa cancellation.
The case is due to be heard on Monday.
The hotel is also used to accommodate asylum seekers, and the Serbian Foreign Ministry has called on the federal government to provide better accommodation for Djokovic.
“Serbia does not want to influence the upcoming decision of the Australian justice in any way,” the statement said.
“(Serbia) expects the country’s authorities, in the spirit of good bilateral relations between Australia and Serbia (…) to allow Djokovic to spend (time) in better accommodation. “
Meanwhile, Victoria’s acting Prime Minister Jacinta Allan said the state government had not been informed by Tennis Australia that unvaccinated tennis players would not be allowed into the country.
Djokovic has obtained a medical exemption from Tennis Australia and the Victorian government to compete in the upcoming Australian Open.
The Commonwealth wrote to Tennis Australia last year to advise the organization that unvaccinated arrivals would not be allowed and that a recent viral infection would not be a valid exemption from the requirement.
Ms Allan said that although the federal government informed Tennis Australia of the vaccination requirements, this had not been communicated to the state government.
“I am informed that members of the Victorian government had not seen this correspondence, we would not necessarily see it,” she told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.
“But that reinforces that point that the Commonwealth Government is responsible for issuing visas, and how they engage in this dialogue with Tennis Australia is their business.”
Meanwhile, Home Secretary Karen Andrews has revealed that border officials are investigating two more arrivals to Australia for the Grand Slam tournament for similar visa violations for non-vaccination.
“If the Australia Border Force learns that there is a problem, they will continue to investigate and ensure that Australia’s entry conditions are maintained,” she told the Seven Network on Friday. .
“(ABF) will continue with the investigations and once they are finalized I am sure I will be notified.”
Djokovic’s family in Serbia rallied behind the champion, accusing the federal government of keeping him captive and comparing him to Jesus.
“They are keeping him in captivity. They are trampling on Novak and therefore trampling on Serbia and the Serbian people,” Djokovic’s father Srdjan told a press conference in Belgrade on Thursday.
The Australian Open starts on January 17th.
Australian Associated Press