Australia’s efforts continues for refugee release
Australia has been trying persistently to release its refugee from Thailand and Foreign Minister Marise Payne has stressed that Australia is making “extensive efforts” to seek the return of a Melbourne-based soccer player as his detention in Thailand continues.
Her comments come as dozens of human rights and refugee-focused organisations have signed an open letter to Thailand’s Prime Minister Prayut Chan-Ocha, appealing for Hakeem AlAraibi’s release.
Mr AlAraibi has been held in Thailand since November when he was arrested while on holiday over an Interpol Red Notice warrant issued by his native Bahrain.
Australia granted AlAraibi asylum in 2017, but Bahrain wants him returned to serve a prison sentence for a charge he denies of vandalising a police station.
Senator Payne, who raised AlAraibi’s case again in a meeting with senior Thai government figures earlier this month, says Australia is “deeply concerned” by his ongoing detention.
“We have most definitely ensured that the Thai government is well aware, at all levels, of the great importance of this matter to Australia,” Senator Payne told ABC Radio’s AM on Wednesday.
“We are making extensive efforts to seek his return. “The minister said the Interpol Red Notice warrant issued by Bahrain didn’t comply with Interpol’s constitution and was cancelled by Australia as soon as it confirmed AlAraibi was a refugee.
“As a refugee, I am absolutely focused on trying to achieve his release from detention in Thailand and his safe return to Australia and to his wife,” she said.
Amnesty International Australia, Asylum Access USA and the United Kingdom’s AMERA International are among 30 organisations and five individuals who have penned a letter to Thai leader Mr Prayuth expressing their deep concern at AlAraibi’s ongoing detention.
The group say he will “almost certainly face torture and imprisonment” if he is sent back to Bahrain.
AlAraibi plays for a semi-professional Australian soccer team, Melbourne’s Pascoe Vale Football Club, and has played for the Bahraini national team.
Former Socceroo Craig Foster visited AlAraibi at a Bangkok prison on Tuesday and says he is “losing hope”.
Foster has criticised FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, and the Asian Football Confederation for not doing more for the jailed player.
“We feel as though football hasn’t done enough,” Foster said after meeting AlAraibi.