Australia Govt urged to help secure release of refugee Bahraini footballer from Thailand

25th Jan 2019

Nadine Osman

The Australian Government has on December 19, refused to circumvent its immigration law and grant automatic citizenship to a young refugee facing deportation from Thailand to Bahrain.

Hakeem Al-Araibi fled Bahrain in 2014, claiming he was tortured in detention.

Using his Australian travel document, the 25-year-old Australian permanent resident flew to Thailand for a holiday with his wife when he was detained at Bangkok airport on November 27. He was held on an Interpol warrant issued at the request of Bahrain.

He was transferred into detention at Suan Plu immigration detention centre on December 2.

A former player of Bahrain’s national soccer team, Al-Araibi was sentenced to10 years in prison in Bahrain in 2014. He has spoken out about a senior Bahraini official’s practice of torturing footballers who participate in demonstrations.

 

He was himself arrested in November 2012 and tortured. Al-Araibi fled to Australia, where he was recognised as a refugee in 2017.

His lawyer, supported by the Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), argued giving Al-Araibi citizenship was of “national interest” and would bolster his chances of being returned to Australia instead of deported to Bahrain where he fled and was granted refugee status from.

His lawyer Latifa al-Haouli argued, “This request requires emergency Government intervention and marks Australia’s stance on protecting legitimate refugees. This is a matter of national interest, far exceeding the criteria of public interest used to assess ministerial interventions.”

However, Australia’s Home Office insisted it did not have the power to grant Al-Araibi automatic citizenship maintaining he “must meet the legal requirements under the Australian Citizenship Act 2007” and that “neither the minister, nor the department have the power to waive any of the legal requirements.”

Amnesty International said al-Araibi is in imminent danger of deportation to the Gulf state even if his “forcible return to Bahrain would violate international law”.

Australia’s Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, said she has raised the matter with her Thai counterpart requesting that Al-Araibi be allowed to fly back to Melbourne.

“Australia is concerned by the ongoing detention of Mr Hakeem Ali Al-Araibi and calls for his immediate return to Australia. Mr Al-Araibi was granted permanent residency by the

Australian Government in 2017 in recognition of his status as a refugee. Australia has made, and will continue to make, high-level diplomatic representations seeking Mr Al-Araibi’s safe return,” Payne said.

Al-Araibi sent out a message saying he feared being tortured if he was deported to Bahrain. He fled to Australia in 2014 and was granted refugee status in November 2017.
His status as a permanent resident allows him to remain in Australia indefinitely and to travel to and from the country, so long as he does not travel to Bahrain.

Al-Araibi has been critical of the Bahraini Government, speaking about an incident where he was allegedly tortured by Bahraini authorities in 2012.

Al-Araibi’s Melbourne football club, Pascoe Vale FC, is among numerous organisations lobbying and crowdfunding in support of him.

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