Meghan Markle’s estranged brother has reportedly flown into Australia ahead of an expected appearance on a Channel Seven reality show.
There were widespread reports on Thursday afternoon that Thomas Markle Jr had landed in Sydney, ahead of filming beginning for Big Brother VIP.
Magazine New Idea said Mr Markle, the Duchess of Sussex’s half-brother, was spotted by numerous airport staff before being whisked off to begin 14 days in hotel quarantine.
Filming for the celebrity edition of Big Brother, which has been delayed by the pandemic, is reportedly set to begin at Sydney Olympic Park within weeks.
Mr Markle’s arrival comes just days after another celebrity Big Brother recruit, right-wing commentator Katie Hopkins, was deported from the country after flouting visa requirements.
Hopkins was dumped by Channel Seven after boasting on social media about breaking hotel quarantine rules. She posted, then later deleted, an Instagram video where she claimed to be intentionally opening doors in quarantine while naked and not wearing a mask in an attempt to “frighten the s–t out of” hotel workers.
Australian authorities reacted quickly, with Home Affairs Minister Karen Andrews describing the behaviour as shameful and cancelling Hopkins’ visa.
By Monday afternoon, the controversial commentator was on her way back to Britain.
It is unclear if Mr Markle is replacing Hopkins on the show. Reality TV star and former Olympic athlete Caitlyn Jenner is also reportedly among the international arrivals for the Channel Seven show.
The celebrity imports have sparked outrage among some, as they are not included in the cap on international arrivals.
Last weekend, Labor’s acting home affairs spokesperson Andrew Giles said the Morrison government’s decision to grant Hopkins a visa was “particularly painful for the 35,000 Australians who remain stranded overseas, including Australian children trapped in India without their parents”.
Federal government sources have said the NSW government would have granted Hopkins’ entry exemption. But the Commonwealth is ultimately responsible for visas
Mr Markle and the duchess are not close. They share the same father, Thomas Markle, and lived together when Meghan was born, along with sister Samantha Grant and Meghan’s mother (Thomas Jr’s step-mother) Doria Ragland.
But they have reportedly had no contact since 2011, well before Meghan married Prince Harry in 2018. Of Meghan’s family, only Ms Ragland was invited to her Windsor Castle wedding to the Queen’s grandson.
In 2020, Mr Markle, who lives in Oregon, told New Idea he wasn’t surprised the duke and duchess had quit as senior members of the British royal family.
“If things aren’t going her way, she’ll just go a different route,” he said.
“Ultimately, she wants to do what she wants to do and she doesn’t want to be told what to do. I think living under the palace rules and guidelines … it just probably caused a lot of problems with her life and with Harry.
“That’s how she is. It’s very possible that she just put her foot down and said [to Harry] I’m leaving – with or without you.”
Mr Markle also has a chequered history. He has been arrested for drink-driving and twice for threats of domestic violence.