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Opinion
Ruth Pollard

Djokovic Debacle Exposes Australia’s Xenophobic Policies

Fear of the virus meets fear of foreigners as the treatment of the millionaire athlete reminds others of ongoing cruelty to would-be migrants.

Members of the Serbian community in Australia gather in support of Djokovic in Melbourne.

Members of the Serbian community in Australia gather in support of Djokovic in Melbourne.

Photographer: William West/AFP

Australia’s tough border laws have been the envy of conservative governments around the world. But this time, those regulations — the ones that put a hold on the Grand Slam ambitions of the men’s No. 1 tennis player, Novak Djokovic — have collided with the country’s pandemic restrictions and a global sporting event. It’s produced a political firestorm that’s burning from Belgrade to Canberra.

Fear of Covid has dovetailed with xenophobia to express what Australian governments really feel about foreigners entering their shores. That Djokovic spent several days confined to a Melbourne hotel that has been used as yet another ad-hoc detention center for refugees — many who’ve been locked up in one form or another for nine years — only serves to highlight the nation’s squeamishness over migration. On Monday, a local court quashed the cancellation of his visa and ordered his immediate release. Djokovic may yet be able to play in the Australian Open, which begins on Jan. 17.