2 December 2018 – A refugee football player from Melbourne who has been detained at Bangkok Airport since 27 November, has now been placed in Suan Plu (Bangkok) Immigration Detention Centre, and is facing deportation back to Bahrain, the country from which he sought refuge and where he fears torture and persecution.
On 27 November, Hakeem Al-Araibi had travelled from Australia to Thailand to with his wife. On arrival, he was detained at Bangkok Airport by Thai authorities on the basis of an Interpol Red Notice. The Notice relates to politically motivated charges issued in Bahrain against Al-Araibi. It is noted that, since 2015 Interpol has said it would not allow red notices against confirmed refugees and asylum seekers from the countries they fled from.
Human rights activists in both Australia and Thailand, campaigned for the release Al-Araibi and highlighted the responsibility of both Australia and Thailand to protect Al-Araibi, a refugee who fled Bahrain because of persecution and torture due to his peaceful involvement in protest against the ruling family during the Arab Spring of 2011.
The Australia Embassy in Bangkok advised Al-Araibi on 30 November 2018 that his situation is cleared with the Thai authorities and to book on the first flight back to Australia, however, Thai immigration authorities refused to hand him his travel document and insisted that he should book for a flight the following night. A few hours before his pre-booked flight to Melbourne last night, Thai immigration authorities transferred Al-Araibi to Suan Plu Immigration Detention Centre in Bangkok, where he is now detained. Thai authorities advised Al-Araibi that the case is now between the Australian and the Bahraini Governments, and the decision is theirs.
Al-Araibi had arrived in Australia in 2014 and was granted refugee status and permanent residency. He has worked hard to build a future here in Australia. Last season he played for Pascoe Vale Football Club, taking the position of defence. He played at the National premium League for Victoria. He has been signed by the club for the upcoming season in 2019. The Chairman of Pascoe Vale Club, Lou Tona, told the ABC that Al-Araibi “was a respectful kid, a respectful person within the team mates…. He never got out of line, he’s just a quiet unassuming character. I just hope that him and his wife are ok”.
Activists are demanding to allow Hakeem to return back to his current country Australia to save him from the imminent danger if deported to Bahrain. Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director at Human Rights Watch, said “Under no circumstances can he be sent to Bahrain…. Interpol Red Notices do NOT apply to recognised refugees like Hakeem al-Araibi”. Mr Robertson added that “MFAThai should coordinate with dfat & Refugees to ensure that he is not forced back to Bahrain to face imprisonment and torture”.
Commenting, Yahya Alhadid, president of Gulf Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (GIDHR), said: “Al-Araibi had publicly criticized senior members of Bahraini royal family, he conducted interviews with media outlets and exposed the blatant violations which are committed in Bahrain. Deporting him to Bahrain puts him at significant risk and endangers his life. We call on the Australian Government to fight to get him back safe and save him from the imprisonment and torture he will face in Bahrain for unfounded and politically motivated charges.”