Bungle that sparked Hakeem’s ordeal
THE refugee soccer player who sparked an international campaign for his freedom was locked up in a Thai jail because of a Border Force bungle and delay, it can be exclusively revealed.
Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin has broken his silence on Hakeem al-Araibi, 25, exclusively telling The Courier-Mail his organisation did not even know the footballer was in Australia in the hours before the former Bahraini citizen boarded a Melbourne flight to Thailand.
Mr Colvin, pressing the point he wasn't apportioning blame, has moved to clarify the AFP's role after the organisation faced heavy criticism about the handling of the case.
Al-Araibi was arrested in Thailand in November after he was flagged by an Interpol "red notice".
The Courier-Mail understands details about al-Araibi were not logged properly in an Australia law enforcement system, sparking a lack of information sharing that would have prevented his detention.
It can be revealed that two days after al-Araibi was detained by Thai police on the "red notice", Border Force told the AFP that the popular footballer had a protection visa, which would have voided the Interpol alert.
Al-Araibi was travelling to Thailand for his honeymoon.
Once informed by Border Force, the AFP immediately alerted Interpol that al-Araibi was a refugee and it was quickly lifted.
However it took 75 days for the Thai Government to release him.
It is understood the Thai Government was under pressure from the Bahraini Government to extradite the footballer, who was sentenced to 10 years' jail in absentia for vandalism during the Arab Spring in 2011.
Al-Araibi feared he would be tortured if he was returned to Bahrain.
The revelations appear to show that the AFP has been wrongly criticised, but point to how a simple administrative oversight can have devastating outcomes.
Mr Colvin said he did not want to apportion blame, but wanted to be sure there were systems in place to prevent it happening again.
"The Home Affairs Department is doing an end-to-end review to look at the where the critical vulnerabilities are so it doesn't happen again,'' Mr Colvin told The Courier-Mail.
"From the AFP perspective, we followed all our procedures.
"When Mr al-Araibi presented (at the airport)... we weren't even aware he was in Australia, let alone that he was subject to a protection visa."
He said when al-Araibi arrived at the airport his name flagged and it did have a "red notice". He wasn't travelling on a passport but with a temporary documents.
Border Force contacted the AFP and asked what it wanted to do.
Mr Colvin said there was no arrest warrant for the footballer in Australia but protocol required the country he was travelling to be informed.
He said the Thai Government would have been aware of the "red notice" once al-Araibi landed in Bangkok.
Mr Colvin and Home Affairs Department secretary Mike Pezzullo will appear before Senate estimates on Monday.