A transcript of Novak Djokovic’s interview with Australia’s Border Force as he tried to enter the country has been released, during which the Serb confirmed he has had COVID-19 twice and is not vaccinated.
The transcript shows the tennis star’s shock and confusion as he is notified of his visa cancellation during an interview in Melbourne which lasted, on and off, from 12.21am to 7.45am on 6 January.
Transcript excerpt 1: Vaccination status and COVID tests – section of interview begins at 12.21am
The interviewer starts by running through a series of procedural questions, including asking about his identity, citizenship and health and safety and also includes a caution warning him he could be prosecuted if he provides any forged documents. He then continues:
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. So when I ask you what were your reasons for travelling to Australia today?
DJOKOVIC: I’m a professional tennis player and the main reason for me coming to Australia is participating in the Australian Open in Melbourne, Victoria.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. Now question regarding your vaccination, are you vaccinated…
DJOKOVIC: I am not vaccinated.
INTERVIEWER: … for COVID-19? Not vaccinated?
DJOKOVIC: I am not vaccinated.
INTERVIEWER: Thank you. Have you ever had COVID?
INTERVIEWER: So when did you?
DJOKOVIC: I had COVID twice, I had COVID in June 2020 and I had COVID recently in – I was tested positive – PCR, the 16th of December 2021…
Djokovic and the interviewer then enter discussions about his documentation and whether it was the federal government or Victorian government who had issued him with a travel document declaration.
The player describes how it was his manager that provided the evidence of his positive and negative PCR tests and antibodies which he claims were reviewed by Tennis Australia’s medical panel and the state of Victoria.
He tells the interviewer he is allowed to have access to Australia “with a medical exemption permission”, but admits he doesn’t have anything on him from the federal government.
This part of the interview, sometime between 12.46am and 12.52am, continues:
INTERVIEWER: … the thing is, like you [inaudible] come to Australia and it is pretty much governed by federal government.
DJOKOVIC: This I understand. 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…
INTERVIEWER: … because, yeah, we want to give you every opportunity to provide as much information as you can.
DJOKOVIC: Alright. Ok. So, no, we did not get any emails from the federal government.
At 12.52am the interview is suspended, then, when the interview begins again at 3.55am, Djokovic is told by the interviewer that he is being issued with a “notice of intention to consider cancellation of your visa”.
Transcript excerpt 2: Intention to consider cancellation of his visa – at 3.55am
INTERVIEWER: Now, Novak based on the information you have provided us [inaudible] that can be of assistance, I am just going to issue you a notice of intention to consider cancellation of your visa. 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[ection] 116 of the Migration Act 1958. So once I serve this notice to you…
INTERVIEWER: … 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.
DJOKOVIC: My agent and I have been in a constant communication through my agent with Tennis Australia and Victorian state government, the medical panel…
DJOKOVIC: … They – whatever they asked us to do – this is their set of rules that they have provided…
DJOKOVIC: … so 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. What – I just – I have nothing else – I arrived here because of these documents otherwise I wouldn’t have been allowed to come in.
DJOKOVIC: 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. So everything is in there. But yeah, I have to go through this process and then the explanation you have given me, I mean, you can give it to me after the timeframe which we give you. The 20 minutes we have to give you.
DJOKOVIC: So you’re giving me legally 20 minutes to try to provide additional information that I don’t have? At four o’clock in the morning? I mean, you kind of put me in a very awkward position where, at four 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.
DJOKOVIC: I just… you put me in a very uncomfortable position. I don’t know what else can I tell you. I mean I-I-I-I everything that that they… I was asked to do, is here.
After another series of starts and stops, at 6.07am Djokovic asks for a delay until 8.30am to allow him to speak to Tennis Australia, to find documents and to give his lawyers more time to engage with the government.
He is told that if his visa is cancelled he will be moved to a hotel for people “refused entry into the country”.
Transcript excerpt 3: Djokovic is told he will be moved to a hotel – shortly after 6.07am
DJOKOVIC: Yeah I know you’re going to cancel my visa, it’s it’s obvious. But I um what does that mean, in terms of, excuse me, in terms of me staying here and waiting for the lawyers to engage with Federal Government –
INTERVIEWER 2: At the airport? Sorry do you mean staying here at the airport?
DJOKOVIC: Yes, I mean, because I’m not allowed to…
INTERVIEWER 2: Okay.
DJOKOVIC: … go in, so I…
INTERVIEWER 2: If [inaudible])…
DJOKOVIC: … would like just to wait for this another two-three hours to see whether or not they can do something
INTERVIEWER 2: Ok.
DJOKOVIC: … that’s the whole idea.
INTERVIEWER 2: Alright.
INTERVIEWER 2: So look, if your visa was cancelled you wouldn’t stay here, you would go to a hotel in the city.
DJOKOVIC: Oh okay, so I would go in a hotel?
INTERVIEWER 2: Yeah, in the city.
INTERVIEWER 2: You wouldn’t be staying here at the airport.
DJOKOVIC: But that hotel? Is it like a COVID hotel or is it what what is it?
INTERVIEWER 2: No, it’s, I don’t know the name of it, it’s just a place, because like if someone is refused entry into the country…
INTERVIEWER 2: … and currently at the moment we’re not putting them into immigration detention centre, so the, I’m guessing the department has contracted with the hotel to allow people in, you know, who’s refused entry to the country to stay at the hotel there.
The interview is then suspended again, and reconvened at 7.38am, when he is told that his visa is indeed being cancelled, with the interviewer telling him: “After weighing up all the information available to me, I was satisfied that grounds for cancelling your visa outweighed the reasons for not cancelling.”
Here’s all the latest on the tennis star’s bid to stay in Australia
Another officer is called into the room and Djokovic is detained.
There is some discussion about whether the player is likely to go back home on their airline that carried him, Emirates, before the interviews end at 7.45am
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