Mon, Dec 03, 2018 - Page 4 News List

Political refugee fears deportation on Interpol notice

RED NOTICE:Hakeem al-Araibi was hoping to return to Australia over the weekend, but has now been put in detention in Thailand and is facing deportation to Bahrain

The Guardian

A refugee soccer player who was hoping to return to Australia over the weekend after being arrested in Thailand has been put in detention instead and is facing deportation to the country he fled from.

Hakeem al-Araibi was last week arrested at Bangkok airport on an Interpol notice issued at Bahrain’s request.

The 25-year-old yesterday told SBS News that Thai authorities “discreetly” ordered him to book a flight out of the country.

He booked a flight to Melbourne departing Saturday at 9pm, but three hours before the flight was told he would not be flying to Australia and was taken to Bangkok’s immigration detention center.

Al-Araibi’s lawyer, Latifa al-Haouli, told SBS News that authorities from the Bahraini government and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) were “pleading their cases” in regard to his detention.

“I haven’t heard of Hakeem yet as of this morning. We’ve been told that DFAT is doing all that they can, but I think they need to be doing more,” she said.

The Bahraini embassy in Thailand issued statements on Twitter on Sunday saying that it was “following up with the relevant security authorities” and that “the suspect is wanted for security cases.”

Last week, al-Araibi told the Guardian Australia that he was arrested on an Interpol red notice for his conviction over an act of vandalism in Bahrain, which he denied and said allegedly happened while he was playing in a televised soccer game.

Since 2015, Interpol has said that it would not allow red notices against confirmed refugees and asylum seekers from the countries they fled from.

“When I arrived at immigration in Thailand, they took me to detention and said: ‘You have a red notice from Bahrain,’” al-Araibi said from detention.

“I told them I am a refugee in Australia. I said: ‘[Bahrain] is not allowed to take me. I have been in Australia for four-and-a-half years now,’ but they took me to detention,” he said.

Al-Araibi arrived in Australia in 2015 and was granted refugee status and permanent residency three years later.

A former member of Bahrain’s national soccer team, he has previously described being tortured and beaten by authorities who had accused him and other soccer players of setting fire to a police station, and he was sentenced in absentia to 10 years in jail.

Al-Araibi denies the charge and has said that he was playing in a televised match at the time of the alleged incident.

The players and their families are believed to have been targeted for their involvement in peaceful protests against the ruling family during the Arab Spring of 2011.

A number of the players targeted alongside al-Araibi were also reportedly granted refuge in Australia, where he now plays for a Melbourne team.

He has since publicly spoken against Sheikh Salman Alkhalifa, cousin of the Bahraini king and current president of the Asian Football Confederation, doing multiple interviews with media while Alkhalifa campaigned for the presidency of FIFA.

Last week, an Australian foreign affairs spokeswoman told the Guardian Australia: “Australian embassy officials in Bangkok are in direct contact with Thai authorities regarding this issue. Owing to our privacy obligations we will not provide further comment.”

Al-Araibi’s support team has expressed concern that he would get less assistance from the Australian government because he is not a citizen and called for urgent action to prevent his deportation to Bahrain.

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