Hakeem al-Araibi, an Australian footballer of Bahraini descent was arrested on 27 November 2018 when he arrived in Bangkok with his wife for their honeymoon.
It was subsequently identified that a chain of bureaucratic bungles by the AFP, Border Force, Department of Home Affairs and Interpol led to his detention.
So, how did these ‘trusted authorities’ all get it so wrong?
Hakeem al-Araibi fled from Bahrain to Australia in 2014 for fears of persecution. He subsequently gained Australian citizenship in March 2019 and was granted protected status as a refugee.
Bahraini officials have pursued al-Araibi over vandalism allegations, which he has always denied, through the use of an Interpol Red Notice.
A Red Notice is an electronic alert published by the International Criminal Police Organisation (INTERPOL) seeking the detention of a wanted person, often for the purpose of extradition.
The wrongful arrest of al-Araibi was due to negligence and human error by a number of key parties.
It was eventually revealed that Bahrain was granted a Red Notice under circumstances which contravened Interpol’s policies to protect refugees from the country they fled.
Australian Border Force
The Australian Border Force officer neglected to inform the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and Department of Home Affairs that al-Araibi was under protected status as a refugee, which would have prevented him from being detained.
Australian Federal Police
Although originally mishandled by Border Force, the error was subsequently discovered and communicated to the AFP by email. This crucial email went unread for five days, thereby putting al-Araibi under increased risk.
Department of Home Affairs
On the same day that the email was sent by Border Force, home affairs sought to cancel al-Araibi’s protection visa during his incarceration.
A need for better inter-agency cooperation
Australian Federal Police commissioner Reece Kershaw acknowledged the errors by all relevant parties in this case and said he was now working with the Department of Home Affairs to address a “lack of connectivity” between border security systems and the Interpol database.
Mr. Kershaw also stated that the AFP would continue to review and improve processes in consultation with other relevant agencies to ensure that situations such as this are handled properly in the future.
Al-Araibi was eventually freed when Thailand dropped the extradition proceedings, and he returned to Australia in February 2019 after 76 days in jail. In March, he became an Australian citizen.