Bahrian Mirror (DPA): A refugee football player living in Australia has been detained in Bangkok by Thai authorities and is facing deportation to Bahrain, rights groups say.
Hakeem Ali Mohamed Ali Al-Araib, a Bahraini football player granted refugee status in Australia last year, was arrested at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi International Airport on Tuesday for a 2014 conviction in Bahrain, according to Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy.
The London-based group said Hakeem has been detained at the airport under an Interpol Red Notice issued by Bahraini authorities for vandalising a police station in November 2012, even though he was representing Bahrain in a match with Qatar at the time.
Allegedly tortured by the Bahraini authorities, the 25-year-old footballer fled Bahrain in 2015, the group said.
Thai immigration police did not answer dpa's request for confirmation on Hakeem's detention, which comes amid the Thai authorities' crackdown on illegal immigrants under "Operation X-ray."
Thailand, which has not ratified the UN's 1951 Refugee Convention, does not recognise the status of refugees and asylum seekers, who are treated as illegal immigrants and incarcerated. The South-East Asian country usually send them back to face persecution at home.
"Human Rights Watch is deeply concerned about the safety of Hakeem if he is handed over to Bahrain," Sunai Phasuk, a Thailand-based senior researcher for Human Rights Watch, told dpa.
"Thailand should do the right thing by putting Hakeem on the next flight to Australia, which recognises his refugee status and provides him safe sanctuary," he added. "Returning Hakeem to Bahrain would be a heartless act."