January 9, 2022

How Novak Djokovic unintentionally put the Spotlight on Australia’s inhumane Refugee Policies.


The Djokovic story highlighted an Australian problem that is much bigger than the vaccination status of a controversial Serbian tennis player.

Last week, I wrote an article on the current drama around Novak Djokovic and the Australian Open. Some of my regular readers might have been surprised that I didn’t join the Djokovic-bashing as expected.

Just to be clear: I am pro-vaccination and against privileges for rich athletes, but I care a lot about refugees.

When I heard the news that Djokovic was moved to a government detention hotel, I said to myself, “Finally, the world is going to look at this.”

And I am not talking about Djokovic or his ridiculous attempt to enter Australia based on a medical exemption. I am talking about the more than questionable migration policies of Australia.

I remember reading about Australia’s approach toward migration more than 10 years ago. I was shocked. I was crying. I was angry.

What upset me the most was that nobody seemed to care.

Let’s talk about the offshore processing of people who seek asylum in Australia. There are hundreds of migrants held on remote islands without any hope of obtaining a visa for Australia. Some of these young migrants spend their entire youth on these islands.

There is the heartbreaking story of Mehdi Ali. The young Iranian, who fled his home country at the age of 15, spent the last nine years in immigration centers. Just let that sink in. He never committed a crime besides seeking shelter in Australia without the right papers.

Mehdi Ali is just one of countless victims of Australian border policies that try to make sure nobody is trying to enter Australia illegally—and in a weird twist of events, he currently sits in the same detention center as Djokovic.

As mentioned before, I feel that Djokovic, Australian Open officials, and the Australian government created this unnecessary drama. If nobody is allowed to enter Australia without getting at least two shots, they should have told Djokovic exactly that. But instead, they told him that he was good to go. That medical exemption was based on the claim that Djokovic caught the virus in December 2021.

But then pictures of Djokovic attending public events days after allegedly testing positive surfaced, which brings up another question. Did he fake the test result with the help of Serbian officials to get an exemption, or did he attend public events after testing positive for the virus?

Either way, the Djoker turned into a joke. I don’t have any respect for this kind of behavior. But he could still become a hero to me.

And that is the wildest plot twist in this story.

Djokovic and his entourage are often associated with Serbian nationalists and supporters of pseudoscience. But now, as Djokovic is dealing with Australian border policies, they are worried about the conditions at the detention center.

I don’t believe a single word of the Djokovic-clan supporting the rights of refugees in Australia. The main reason why they speak up about it is to help an unvaccinated tennis player with a sickening sense of self-entitlement.

But that doesn’t make it wrong. Australian prime minister Scott Morrison, who is also a climate change denier, wanted to show strength by canceling the visa after a sh*tstorm on social media. The public outrage on the medical exemption for Djokovic led to the cancellation of Djokovic’s visa.

Again, they could have told all unvaccinated players that there were no medical exemptions from the beginning. But that’s apparently not what happened. Djokovic isn’t the only player who thought that players who recovered from COVID-19 were allowed to enter without being vaccinated.

But again, I don’t care about the Australian Open anymore. I feel the Australian government accidentally put the spotlight on their more than questionable border policies.

And it’s about time to look at this topic. The information was out there for more than a decade, but apparently, it took a Serbian tennis player to bring this to the center of our attention.

Looking at Djokovic’s background, it’s safe to say this wasn’t his goal—but does that actually matter? Without the unnecessary drama, there wouldn’t have been an article in The New York Times on Australia’s migration policies—and that’s a good thing, right?

We can’t pretend that we don’t know about this anymore. Even Nigel Farage, known to be a Brexit supporter, but not as a human rights activist, took sides with Djokovic in this case.

And that perfectly illustrates the absurdity of this story. Anti-vaxxers and far-right politicians are complaining about the inhumane border policies of Australia to make their case.

But we also shouldn’t make a mistake and pretend that Australia was the only country on this planet with questionable migration policies. There are refugee camps at the European border that are not any better than the ones run by the Australian government on remote islands. Up to this day, there are children in cages, who got separated from their parents, in the United States.

All of this needs to stop immediately!

We have to stop looking the other way when refugees seek shelter after fleeing torture, imprisonment, and rape. These people need our help. Many of them are fleeing situations that we created with our foreign policies—just take a look at Afghanistan and Syria.

But instead, we hear people say things like, “We can’t let everyone in. There needs to be a limit.” That might be true; we can’t allow millions of refugees to enter our countries without any limitations—but that doesn’t mean that we are allowed to treat refugees the way we treat them right now.

I am glad that the Djokovic drama unintentionally put our attention on this tragedy. I don’t care about the Australian Open, but I care about refugees.

We need to stop dehumanizing people who ask for our help. There is a human being behind every application for asylum. They aren’t just a number; they are people just like you and me.

We need to change our narrative on migration.

Last night, I watched the Netflix special of the comedian Mo Amer. He came to the United States as a refugee. If you want to get an idea of what it is like to be a refugee without any documents, please listen to what he has to say.

I wish there were more folks like Mo Amer and Mehdi Ali who share their stories with us. Their voices need to be heard.

No human being is illegal.

And if the world needed a rich athlete to spend a few days at one of these detention centers to grab our attention—I am totally fine with that. That’s why I wrote about it.

May it be of benefit!





Read 9 Comments and Reply

Read 9 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Robert Busch  |  Contribution: 160,655

author: Robert Busch

Image: Mehdi Ali/Twitter Screenshot