Bahraini refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi to become an Australian citizen

Bahraini refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi to become an Australian citizen
Hakeem al-Araibi is set to become an Australian citizen next week, a month after he returned the country following his two-month detention in Thailand.
2 min read
07 March, 2019
Araibi returned to Australia last month following two months in Thai detention [Getty]

Hakeem al-Araibi, the refugee footballer who spent more than two months in detention in Thailand under threat of extradition to his native Bahrain, will soon become an Australian citizen.

"I do the test, I pass the test, I am 90 percent a citizen. One more appointment, I will be a citizen," Araibi told The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald newspapers.

"The ceremony [is] next week, because I passed the test."

The footballer who sought refuge in Australia in 2014 said he will formally become an Australian citizen at a ceremony in Melbourne on Tuesday. Araibi was previously granted asylum by Australia.

Araibi returned to Melbourne last month, ending two months in detention in Bangkok and a tense diplomatic standoff between Thai, Australian and Bahraini authorities.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison had told Araibi on his return from detention that Australian citizenship was not "too far away".

His detention by Thai authorities after traveling to the country for his honeymoon was prompted by an Interpol red notice issued by Bahrain, which claims he vandalised a police station during pro-democracy protests.

Araibi has denied that charge and says he fled his country in fear of political persecution and torture.

The two-month ordeal sparked worldwide outrage from human rights groups, sports stars, and Australian citizens and their government.

Bahrain abruptly requested Thailand drop extradition proceedings against Araibi in February, following months of the country urging his deportation. Bahraini authorities have said that the footballer's guilty verdict remains in place.

"Even now, Bahrain has vowed to 'pursue all necessary legal actions' to drag me back to the place I fled. My brother remains imprisoned there, and I don't believe that I am safe from the Bahraini government," he told The Guardian last week.

Since returning to Australia, Araibi has resumed training with the second-tier club Pascoe Vale and has been outspoken out against rights abuses in Bahrain, calling for Formula One to boycott this year's Grand Prix in the country.