IOther than fresh graffiti on its walls informing passers-by of the dozens of refugees being held inside, the Park Hotel looks like any ordinary building in Melbourne. It exists in a particularly pleasant part of the world, just north of Melbourne’s CBD, just in the shadow of the city’s university and surrounded by a parade of mouth-watering Asian restaurants. The building, meanwhile, is colored in indescribable tones of cream and gray. Normally, people rarely look twice.
Since Novak Djokovic arrived in Melbourne and was quickly ordered by the Australian Border Force to leave the country before being taken to the detention hotel as his lawyers appealed against his visa cancellation, the hotel Park has been at the epicenter of one of the most absurd sports stories in recent memory. As Djokovic fans gathered, those who campaigned for the freedom of the refugees, some of whom have been there for years, also gathered.
Monday, one way or another, those views will be gone. Djokovic’s legal battle against his deportation from Australia began on Thursday when his lawyers obtained an interim injunction to keep him in the country until after his hearing, which the government did not oppose. This hearing begins Monday at 10 a.m.
Despite the spectacle, the facts are simple. Upon Djokovic’s arrival in Melbourne on Wednesday evening, Australian border forces found he was unable to prove he met Australia’s entry requirements, which require arrivals to be vaccinated. As an unvaccinated traveler, Djokovic had obtained a medical exemption through a process led by Tennis Australia and the State of Victoria in order to participate in the Australian Open, but the federal government, and no other entity, controls the borders. from the country.
Thus, Djokovic’s legal team will have to prove that the decision of the border forces to cancel his visa and travel to deport him was illegal. On Saturday, court documents revealed that Djokovic requested his medical exemption after, according to his lawyers, he was infected with Covid-19 on December 16. His lawyers also cite his travel declaration and exemption as an indication that he had the right to enter Victoria.
Among the possible outcomes, Djokovic could win the case, allowing him to leave the hotel and compete, or he could lose it and be forced to leave the country. The case could boom, with his presence and freedom in Melbourne at the judge’s discretion.
The audience promises to be a show in itself: it will be held on Microsoft Teams and will be open to the public. The Federal Court website posted the link to Monday’s hearing, along with the warning in bold letters: “It is imperative that you turn off your camera and sound as this may affect the conduct of the hearing.” “
In the wake of so much emotion, outrage and public attention, maybe that’s the whole point for some.
From a sporting point of view, the stakes are clear. Djokovic previously escaped a major championship recently when he was excluded from the fourth round of the 2020 US Open after accidentally hitting a linesman with a ball. He doesn’t have to do it again.
Even though Djokovic remains the dominant player in men’s tennis, having weathered a Grand Slam victory match last year, and will have other opportunities, every major tournament counts at 34. He had arrived in Melbourne in search of a record-breaking 21st major singles title.
If he loses the case, there are other concerns. If the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa is confirmed, he could be banned from re-entering the country for three years. It remains to be seen whether he will even want to return to Australia after this turn of events.
His cause has found support in unlikely corners. “It’s just too much at this point,” Australian tennis player Nick Kyrgios said on Saturday. âHonestly, I hope everything will work out as soon as possible. For the sport we need here, it’s that simple. He is possibly one of the most influential sportsmen of all time.
On Saturday morning, after a few hectic days and nights, the area surrounding the hotel was much quieter. A couple of Serbian Djokovic fans, a father and son, quietly scanned the building across the road. Meanwhile, a dozen stubborn human rights activists continued to hold up their placards demanding the immediate release of the refugees. Police officers stood guard, while photographers gathered around the windows, their cameras slamming whenever a curtain moved.
Every now and then members of the public would pass by and stop to take a look. Karen and Patrick were on their way to the Brunswick neighborhood, going about their business on a route they had taken countless times in their lives, when they stumbled upon the scene. âWe walked past this building so many times not knowing they had been there for months,â Karen said.
When Djokovic leaves, cameras that had only focused briefly on the plight of the refugees will too.
An activist, Asher, stood on the south side of the building with a bright pink sign that read, âAussie Open? More like Australians who endlessly abuse refugees â, a real tennis racket attached to each corner of the sign.
His frustration was clear: “I’m a little disgusted that it took Djokovic to be put here for attention to come to these men,” Asher said. âDjokovic will be here for a few days and he’s not in the same situation at all. The media should care about these men – regardless of Djokovic. “