Serbia hits out at Djokovic visa decision

Novak Djokovic's family in Serbia have compared him to Jesus as his visa plight continues.
Novak Djokovic's family in Serbia have compared him to Jesus as his visa plight continues.

Serbia's foreign affairs ministry has hit out at Australia's decision to cancel the visa of tennis star Novak Djokovic, saying the world No.1 was a victim of a political game.

Australia's ambassador to Belgrade, Daniel Emery, was summoned to the ministry and urged to make personal efforts to assist Djokovic.

The federal government on Thursday cancelled Djokovic's visa to enter the country for the Australian Open due to him not meeting vaccination requirements needed for entry.

The Serbian ministry said Australia had acted in bad faith towards the tennis star.

"Starovic emphasised that the Serbian public has a strong impression that Djokovic is a victim of a political game against his will, and that he was lured to travel to Australia in order to be humiliated," the ministry statement said.

"Novak Djokovic is not a criminal, terrorist or illegal migrant, but he was treated that way by the Australian authorities, which causes understandable indignation of 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 argued he had 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 participate in the competition

Djokovic is being held in an inner north Melbourne hotel while he awaits a court challenge to his visa cancellation.

The case is set to be heard on Monday.

The hotel is also used to house asylum seekers, and Serbia's foreign ministry has called on the federal government to give Djokovic better accommodation.

"Serbia does not want to influence the upcoming decision of the Australian judiciary in any way," the statement.

"(Serbia) expects that the authorities of the country, in the spirit of good bilateral relations between Australia and Serbia ... allow Djokovic to spend (time) in better accommodation."

Meanwhile, Victoria's acting premier Jacinta Allan said the state government was not informed by Tennis Australia unvaccinated tennis players would not be allowed into the country.

Djokovic was granted a medical exemption by Tennis Australia and the Victorian government to be able to compete in the upcoming Australian Open.

The Commonwealth wrote to Tennis Australia last year advising the organisation that unvaccinated arrivals would not be let in and that a recent virus infection would not be a valid exemption from the requirement.

Ms Allan said while the federal government told Tennis Australia about the vaccination requirements, it was not passed on to the state government.

"I'm advised that members of the Victorian government hadn't seen that correspondence, we wouldn't necessarily see it," she told reporters in Melbourne on Friday.

"But it reinforces that point that it is the commonwealth government that's responsible for issuing visas, and how they engage in that dialogue with Tennis Australia is a matter for them."

Meanwhile, Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews has revealed border officials are investigating two other arrivals into Australia for the Grand Slam tournament for similar visa breaches for being unvaccinated.

"If Australia Border Force becomes aware there is an issue, they will continue to investigate and make sure that Australia's entry requirements are maintained," she told the Seven Network on Friday.

"(ABF) will continue the investigations and once it is finalised, I'm sure that I will be briefed."

Djokovic's family in Serbia has rallied around the champion, accusing the federal government of keeping him in captivity and comparing him to Jesus.

"They're keeping him in captivity. They are trampling on Novak and thus they are trampling on Serbia and the Serbian people," Djokovic's father Srdjan said at a news conference in Belgrade on Thursday.

The Australian Open begins on January 17.

Australian Associated Press