‘Outrageous’: Australia notified Thailand about refugee footballer’s travel plans

Jakarta: Hakeem al-Araibi was detained in Bangkok after the Australian government informed their Thai counterparts the refugee footballer was travelling to Thailand and subject to an Interpol Red Notice.

On Wednesday, the Department of Home Affairs attempted to distance itself from Araibi's detention, arguing that "any action taken in response to the Interpol Red Notice is a matter for Thai authorities".

Bahraini football player Hakeem al-Araibi, centre, is brought in to a court in Bangkok, Thailand, on Tuesday. Credit:AP

But Human Rights groups were sharply critical of Australian authorities' decision to notify Thailand of Araibi's travel plans, arguing it was effectively responsible for his detention.

Araibi was granted refugee status by Australia after fleeing his home country of Bahrain. He was arrested in Thailand more than two weeks ago.

Refugees are not supposed to be subject to Interpol red notices – a form of international arrest warrant – when they are issued by the country from which they flee.

Although the red notice has been lifted, Araibi remains in detention in Bangkok and in a court hearing on Tuesday, Thai authorities indicated they would press ahead with plans to extradite him to Bahrain.

Hakeem al-Araibi waits to transferred to a jail in a court house in Bangkok. It’s been revealed that it was Australia that tipped off Thai authorities to his arrival.Credit:AP

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne has called on Thai authorities to release Araibi and allow him to return to Melbourne, where he plays for the semi-professional Pascoe Vale Football Club.

Defending its actions, the Department of Home Affairs said that membership of Interpol created certain obligations on member agencies.

The department confirmed the Interpol National Central Bureau in Australia had "advised Thai authorities in relation to the scheduled arrival of a person who was the subject of an Interpol Red Notice".

"The Interpol Red Notice was not put in place by Australia; the existence of the Interpol Red Notice would have come to the attention of Thai authorities when the person attempted to enter Thailand. Any action taken in response to the Interpol Red Notice is a matter for Thai authorities."

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne.Credit:AP

The federal police have previously been criticised for tipping off Indonesian authorities' to the Bali Nine drug smuggling plot, which resulted in long jail terms for all nine members and the execution of ringleaders Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

Araibi has claimed he was tortured in Bahrain by authorities there.  He was convicted in absentia of vandalising a police station in Bahrain and sentenced to ten years in prison.

However, Araibi was playing in a televised soccer match at the time of his alleged crime.

He was given refugee status here because of what he was doing in Bahrain and the AFP have undermined that by notifying Thai authorities.

A former member of Bahrain's national football team, he has also been a vocal critic of Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa, the president of the Asian Football Federation and a cousin of Bahrain's king.

Human Rights Watch Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said Araibi faced "imprisonment torture and worse" if he was sent back to Bahrain.

"I don't understand why the AFP [Australian Federal Police] would bother to inform Thailand that a refugee was travelling on a red notice – especially when that red notice was from Bahrain, the country he fled from".

"Whoever handled this at the AFP should have looked at his case, figured out he was a refugee, and figured out this red notice was a mistake."

"Why didn't the AFP look at this and think, if he was subject to a red notice, why haven't we arrested him here in Australia? Australia has to redouble its efforts to make this right."

Julian Burnside says the AFP has undermined the refugee’s status.

Human rights lawyer Julian Burnside said it was "outrageous" that Australian authorities had notified Thailand of Araibi's looming arrival.

"He was given refugee status here because of what he was doing in Bahrain and the AFP have undermined that by notifying Thai authorities," he said.

"Refugees should not be subject to red notices. This is their [the Australian government's] fault."

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