UPDATE: 27 Jan 2019 - Hakeem has spent more than 60 days in prison waiting for the Thai authorities decision. He is currently held at Bangkok Remand Prison (Klong Prem Central Prison), after the court given Bahrain 60 days period (until 8 Feb 2019) to submit the official request.
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 and the Australian football community, 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 brother's peaceful involvement in protests against the ruling family during the Arab Spring of 2011.
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 teammates…. 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”.
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.”
If we won the battle Hakeem will be returned safely to his current country Australia and will continue to contribute to the society he lives and plays soccer in. However, if we lost the battle he will be deported to Bahrain as imprisoned there over political charges. Reports from Bahraini prisons reveal that the wellbeing of the political prisoners is at risk as there is no respect for the minimum standards of their basic rights, and their lives are in real danger.