Australian Refugee Footballer Faces Deportation after Thailand Arrest

2018-11-30 - 12:52 ص

Bahrain Mirror (Exclusive): The SBS Australian News website reported that a Bahraini refugee who has Australian permanent residency has been arrested in Thailand and now faces deportation back to the Gulf state.

Advocacy groups say that should Hakeem Al-Araibi be forced to return to Bahrain, the 25-year-old will be at high risk of "imprisonment and torture" due to previously speaking out against authorities.

SBS News spoke to Mr. Al-Araibi in Bangkok on Thursday, where he was arrested after travelling from Melbourne.

"I am afraid of being taken back to Bahrain. It's very dangerous there [for me] ... In Bahrain, they want to kill me," he said.

"I told [Thai Immigration] I [didn't] come from Bahrain, I have an Australian travel document ...  Bahrain is not my country now, I live in Australia." 

Mr. Al-Araibi was in Thailand he was "detained under Interpol's Red Notice, issued upon the request of Bahrain on the basis of [his] criminal conviction in 2014," according to the Bahrain Institute for Rights and Democracy (BIRD).

A statement from BIRD said Mr. Al-Araibi was arrested and tortured by authorities in 2012, allegedly due to the political activities of his brother. In 2014, he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment in absentia on the charge of vandalising a police station.

Mr. Al-Araibi denies the charge and claims that he was playing in a match that was televised live when the alleged crime occurred.

He has since spoken out publically about his torture and criticised how authorities had tortured footballers who participated in demonstrations.

His lawyer Latifa Al-Haouli told SBS News on Thursday that he was an Australian permanent resident on the 866 protection visa and was on track to become an Australia citizen.

"Having been granted an Australian travel document and permanent residency, Hakeem had consulted the Thai embassy in Australia and the Immigration Department before travelling to Thailand. Both institutions assured him that he will be safe and will not be deported to Bahrain," she said. 

Director of BIRD Sayed Ahmed Al-Wadaei said, "Interpol has violated its obligations, as Hakeem holds refugee status and returning him to Bahrain puts him at significant risk of torture and imprisonment," he said.

"His deportation would undoubtedly damage the reputation of Interpol's newly-elected president early into his tenure."

In a statement released on Thursday, Mr. Al-Araibi's wife Naqaa Sateeh said "I was relieved when Australia gave him a protection visa but I am sick worried to death now that he could be deported to Bahrain at any moment".


"I hope the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Australian media and activists do their best to fasten his release and save him from an inevitable arrest and torture."

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is aware of the case, but cannot provide further comment.

"Australian Embassy officials in Bangkok are in direct contact with Thai authorities regarding this issue," the department said in a statement to SBS News. "Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment."

Arabic Version