‘It’s not human’: Novak Djokovic being treated ‘like a prisoner’ amid visa row, mother claims

Novak Djokovic’s mother has said he is being kept “like a prisoner” at an immigration hotel in Melbourne and claimed the facility is dirty and riddled with bugs.

Djokovic is currently being held at the Park Hotel in Carlton, a state-run quarantine facility that is also used to house asylum seekers, after lodging an appeal against the Australian Border Force’s decision to rescind his visa.

The nine-times Australian Open winner had flown to Melbourne after Tennis Australia and Victoria State declared that he had been granted a “medical exemption” to enter the country, despite not disclosing his vaccination status.

However, after a fierce wave of backlash, Djokovic was held at the airport for eight hours yesterday before being transferred to the hotel, where previous occupants are alleged to have complained about maggots and mould within the food served.

“I spoke with him a couple of hours ago, he was good, we didn’t speak a lot but we spoke for a few minutes. He was trying to sleep, but he couldn’t,’ Dijana Djokovic said at a press conference in Belgrade on Thursday.

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“As a mother, what can I say, you can just imagine how I feel, I feel terrible since yesterday, the last 24 hours.

“They are keeping him like a prisoner, it’s just not fair, it’s not human. I hope he will stay strong as we are also trying, to give him some energy to keep going. I hope he will win.’

“His accommodation [is] terrible. It’s just some small, immigration hotel, if it is a hotel at all. With bugs, it’s all dirty, the food is terrible.

“They don’t want to give him a chance to move to a better hotel or a rented house.”

The saga has become a diplomatic incident with Serbia’s president, Aleksandar Vucic, claiming Djokovic was the victim of “political persecution” by Australian prime minister Scott Morrison.

Djokovic’s outspoken father, Srđan, also compared the Park Hotel to a prison and claimed the Australian government wanted to “humiliate” the 20-times grand slam champion.

“They could have said ‘don’t come Novak’ and that would have been okay,” he said. “But no, they wanted to humiliate him and they’re still keeping him in prison.

“He’s not in detention, he’s in prison. They took all of his stuff, even his wallet, they left him with just his phone and no change of clothes, nowhere to wash his face.

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“Our pride is a prisoner of these idiots, shame on them, the whole free world together with Serbia should rise. This isn’t a battle for Serbia and Novak, it’s a battle for billions of people, for freedom of expression, for free speech, freedom of behaviour.

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“Novak didn’t break any laws, just as seven billion people didn’t break any laws, they want to subdue us and for us all to be on our knees.”

Djokovic has not garnered as much sympathy from his peers, though, with Rafael Nadal pointedly offering little support when asked about his rival’s situation on Thursday.

“I have been vaccinated twice. If you do this, you don’t have any problem to play here,” the Spaniard said. “The only clear thing is if you are vaccinated, you can play in the Australian Open and everywhere, and the world in my opinion has been suffering enough to not follow the rules.

“There are rules, and if you don’t want to get the vaccine, then you can have some troubles. I think if he wanted, he would be playing here in Australia without a problem.

“He made his own decisions, and everybody is free to take their own decisions, but then there are some consequences.

“Of course I don’t like the situation that is happening. In some way I feel sorry for him. But at the same time, he knew the conditions months ago, so he makes his own decision.”

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