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Missed emails, bureaucratic bungles: How Dwelling Affairs and the AFP contributed to Hakeem al-Araibi’s time in a Thai jail

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October 11, 2019 05:00:34

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Safety fears grow for Melbourne refugee detained in Thailand and wanted in Bahrain

The plight of Hakeem al-Araibi captured the nation’s consideration final summer season.

The footballer had travelled from Australia to Thailand for his long-awaited honeymoon when he was arrested at Bangkok Airport.

Hakeem had been granted a refugee safety visa by Australia after he was tortured in his residence nation of Bahrain. What he didn’t know as he left Melbourne was that Bahrain had issued an INTERPOL Purple Discover for his arrest.

As a refugee, Hakeem ought to by no means have been on the Purple Discover listing and mustn’t have been arrested in Bangkok.

As an alternative, bureaucratic bungles contained in the Division of Dwelling Affairs meant the Purple Discover was not cancelled earlier than he left Melbourne, main Hakeem to be locked up in Thailand for 77 days and going through extradition to the nation that tortured him.

Almost 9 months after the ABC first requested correspondence between the Division of Dwelling Affairs and the Australian Federal Police (AFP) underneath Freedom of Info (FOI) about this bureaucratic debacle, a few of these emails have lastly been launched.

They paint an image of dysfunction and a breakdown in communications throughout the division and the companies that had been meant to assist defend him, not put him in danger.

These emails embrace key particulars that weren’t revealed when probably the most senior officers from the AFP and the Division of Dwelling Affairs gave their variations of occasions in Senate Estimates in February, together with the extraordinary revelation that the division started the method of taking a look at whether or not Hakeem’s refugee safety visa must be cancelled whereas he was detained in Thailand.

November 8 – Bahrain points a Purple Discover

In early November final yr, plans for Hakeem and his spouse Nani’s* journey to Thailand had been in place.

On the time of their wedding ceremony in February 2017, the pair couldn’t journey abroad collectively as Hakeem was nonetheless ready for a refugee safety visa. Lastly, they had been about to go off to Thailand, a rustic Hakeem had first visited in 2013 with Bahrain’s nationwide soccer workforce.

“My wife was excited to go there, because she had never been to Thailand,” he mentioned.

“We just wanted to have fun there.”

Their flights had been booked, and the footballer believed he was protected to journey. He says he referred to as the Immigration helpline two to a few occasions within the months main as much as his journey to ensure it was protected to go to Thailand together with his spouse.

Hakeem playing soccer.


Photo:

Hakeem plays football for Pascoe Vale in Melbourne. (AAP: David Crosling)

“I asked them about travelling overseas — whether it would be safe for me because I have a problem in Bahrain. They said: ‘Yes, you are allowed to travel everywhere, except Bahrain’,” Hakeem mentioned.

What he didn’t know was that INTERPOL Bahrain had issued a Purple Discover in his title on November 8.

Hakeem was accused by Bahraini authorities of being answerable for assaults on a police station in 2012, following the Arab Spring pro-democracy protests. He says there may be video proof he was as an alternative enjoying a recreation of soccer towards Busaiteen Membership on the time, that was proven dwell on Bahrain tv.

A Purple Discover operates a bit like a needed poster. A rustic can ask INTERPOL to place out an alert to legislation enforcement officers internationally to assist determine and monitor people who could also be needed for extradition.

It isn’t unusual for authoritarian states like Bahrain to abuse INTERPOL’s Purple Discover system.

Russia, China, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates are among the many international locations accused of abusing the system to try to extradite people for political functions.

A Purple Discover shouldn’t be handled as a world arrest warrant in Australia, however in different international locations like Thailand it may well result in arrest and extradition.

November 9 – INTERPOL in Canberra alerts Dwelling Affairs

The day after Bahrain issued the Purple Discover in Hakeem’s title, the AFP alerted Border Power contained in the Division of Dwelling Affairs.

November 22 – A crucial error

13 days later, Border Power loaded the Purple Discover onto the Central Motion Alert Listing, with out notifying the AFP/INTERPOL workplace in Canberra that Hakeem had been granted a refugee visa.

If correct process had been adopted, the AFP/INTERPOL Canberra workplace would have been advised he was on a refugee safety visa after which alerted INTERPOL in France that the Purple Discover must be cancelled.

With out entry to this key data, INTERPOL Canberra was about to place the footballer in danger.

November 27 – The nightmare begins

On a cloudy spring morning, Hakeem al-Araibi woke in his residence in Melbourne’s northern suburbs full of pleasure and anticipation about his honeymoon.

Hakeem caught and Uber to the airport together with his spouse, not realizing it was not protected for him to journey.

As they handed by way of customs, Hakeem’s title popped up on the alert listing as being topic to an INTERPOL Purple Discover. Border Power contacted the AFP/INTERPOL workplace in Canberra and allow them to know that Hakeem was leaving the nation, however the footballer remained blind to the danger he was taking by travelling.

Across the time the couple had been boarding Jetstar flight JQ29 to Bangkok, INTERPOL’s Canberra workplace alerted their colleagues in Thailand and Bahrain that Hakeem was about to journey.

The ABC has obtained this electronic mail by way of FOI and it exhibits for the primary time how Bahrain was tipped off about Hakeem’s journey.

The primary line of the correspondence reads:

INTERPOL Canberra takes this chance to increase its compliments to INTERPOL Bangkok and INTERPOL Bahrain.

After the small discuss was over, INTERPOL Canberra disclosed that Hakeem was heading to Bangkok together with his spouse and connected the Purple Discover.

When Hakeem was proven this electronic mail by the ABC, he appeared shocked.

Hakeem was solely conscious that the AFP’s officers at INTERPOL Canberra had knowledgeable Thailand of his journey.

“Now I know they told Bahrain I had a Red Notice,” he mentioned.

“I don’t know what this means. They don’t like refugees? Or don’t like me? I don’t know why they do this.”

Hakeem mentioned they need to have advised him he was the topic of a Purple Discover quite than telling an authoritarian regime like Bahrain that he was travelling.

“They should respect the refugee, respect the people who need protection … if they told me, nothing would have happened,” he mentioned.

The AFP says it’s normal process that the nation that has instigated a Purple Discover is contacted if the topic is travelling. That coverage has not modified since Hakeem’s ordeal, even when it pertains to international locations who abuse the Purple Discover system and have appalling human rights data.

Radha Stirling, a world lawyer who’s campaigning for reform of Purple Notices, says the AFP ought to change its coverage.

“While this may be a standard process for AFP, this is not a process imposed upon them by their membership to INTERPOL, and what countries decide to do with the data they hold is at their discretion,” Ms Stirling advised the ABC.

“Australia, in fact, should have warned Hakeem of the existence of the Red Notice and advised him against travel. Even more than that, protocols need to be urgently established to ensure no residents are ever put in this position again.”

Hakeem and his spouse had no concept that Bahrain had been alerted by Australia that he was travelling and what was awaiting them at Bangkok airport. Nani spent a lot of the flight asleep whereas Hakeem watched Hollywood motion films.

Hakeem says once they arrived, Thai authorities stormed the aircraft and arrested him. He says round 20 officers had been ready for him.

“I can’t describe how I was feeling. I was scared. I told them I am not Bahraini now. I am Australian. I have Australian travel documents. You’re not allowed to stop me because I have a protection visa,” he mentioned.

Hakeem was separated from his spouse and positioned in a detention centre on the airport. His day had began with the joy of flying to Thailand for his honeymoon. It led to an airport detention centre, remoted from his spouse and fearing he can be extradited to Bahrain, imprisoned, tortured and presumably even worse.

“I thought they could kill me,” he mentioned.

“In 2012, when I was 18, they tortured me. They told me I would never play football again. I am a Shia Muslim and they hate Shia Muslims in Bahrain.”

November 28 – A crucial electronic mail is missed

Hakeem hardly slept on his first evening on the airport detention centre.

“I was crying inside. I was thinking about my wife because my wife was in jail, not just me,” he mentioned.

When the time zones aligned, he reached out for assist.

“I had my phone with me. I tried to call Immigration, the Australian embassy, Human Rights. Everyone,” he mentioned.

He says the embassy advised him it was engaged on his case and would supply him with updates.

Again in Australia, the nation that recognised Hakeem was a refugee liable to persecution, and somebody wanted safety from Bahrain, gave the impression to be doing little to assist forestall him from being extradited there.

Inner departmental emails obtained by the ABC underneath FOI present errors being made, correspondence going unanswered and even the triggering of an inquiry into whether or not Hakeem’s safety visa must be cancelled.

At 9:06am a workforce chief from INTERPOL Fugitive Investigations in Australia emailed the Division of Dwelling Affairs suggesting Hakeem left for Thailand on a Bahrain passport and that the Bahrainis had advised them it was a fraudulent passport.

This was not true. Hakeem was travelling on a Titre de Voyage, a journey doc issued to a non-Australian citizen granted refugee standing.

Throughout the hour, Dwelling Affairs responded through electronic mail, alerting INTERPOL Canberra that Hakeem was on a safety visa and had a respectable journey doc. This was a key second. It was the primary time the division advised the AFP and the native department of INTERPOL that Hakeem was a refugee.

This could have triggered a course of that noticed that data handed on to INTERPOL in France so the Purple Discover might be cancelled, however this key electronic mail went unread for 5 days.

Later, in Senate Estimates, AFP Deputy Commissioner Ramzi Jabbour mentioned that “after sending the original email to Home Affairs, the individual AFP NCB (INTERPOL Canberra) member ceased duty…”

On condition that the unnamed agent acquired the crucial electronic mail at 10:01am, lower than an hour after she or he despatched the unique electronic mail to Dwelling Affairs asking for affirmation of Hakeem’s passport particulars, it appears uncommon that that they had left work by 10 within the morning and missed this crucial electronic mail.

A spokesperson for the AFP advised the ABC: “The member concerned worked for a short period on the morning of 28 November 2018, following which they were on leave until 3 December 2018.”

At 11:20am the Dwelling Affairs Character and Cancellation Department wrote to Australia’s INTERPOL department in Canberra. In response to an AFP/INTERPOL chronology obtained by the ABC underneath FOI, this official sought to “disclose the Red Notice for the purposes of visa cancellation”.

Craig Foster, the previous Socceroos captain who grew to become probably the most outstanding advocate to get Hakeem returned to Australia, is staggered by this revelation.

“It’s become clear that there was even talk of cancelling Hakeem’s visa in the early stages,” Foster mentioned.

“It’s really concerning, because it meant that he was placed at even greater risk than he should have been and it’s not acceptable.”

A spokesperson for Dwelling Affairs advised the ABC any case might be referred to the Character and Cancellation Department if there was an INTERPOL Purple Discover issued and its officers had been “required to assess all circumstances … and were able to quickly determine that the Red Notice did not enliven the cancellation provisions”.

The Australian nationwide director of Amnesty Worldwide, Claire Mallinson, mentioned Dwelling Affairs wanted a “comprehensive independent review” of their processes.

“The punitive nature of Australia’s approach to immigration was demonstrated with its first move being to consider revoking Hakeem’s visa,” Ms Mallinson mentioned.

“The systems currently in place mean that this terrible situation could happen again at any time.”

November 29 – ‘They wish to kill me in Bahrain’

By this level, Hakeem and his spouse had spent two nights of their deliberate honeymoon in detention. After paying off native officers, they had been allowed to share a household room within the airport detention centre.

The footballer continued to name the Australian embassy and associates as he desperately tried to keep away from being deported to Bahrain.

One in every of his calls was to SBS reporter Ben Terry.

“I’m a refugee in Australia now. I just want to go back to Australia. I don’t want to stay here … they want to kill me in Bahrain,” Hakeem advised him.

At 1:44pm SBS On-line printed the first news article about Hakeem’s ordeal stating that he was arrested in Bangkok and going through deportation again to Bahrain. The story mentioned he was on a everlasting safety visa and included feedback from the Division of International Affairs (DFAT).

The e-mail from Dwelling Affairs to INTERPOL Canberra alerting them to Hakeem’s refugee standing was nonetheless sitting unread within the inbox of a staffer on depart and the preliminary media stories didn’t appear to set off them to begin the method of getting the Purple Discover cancelled.

The FOI paperwork obtained by the ABC reveal that at 6:42pm that day, the AFP lastly discovered that Hakeem did have refugee standing in Australia and that in consequence, the Purple Discover ought to by no means have been issued. Remarkably this was solely found when an AFP consultant in Bangkok was advised by Dwelling Affairs. This means the AFP in Thailand knew this crucial piece of knowledge earlier than the AFP in Australia did.

This element has not been reported till now and was not talked about when then-AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin gave proof earlier than Senate Estimates in February.

November 30 – France alerts Australia’s INTERPOL about Hakeem’s refugee standing

As Hakeem and his spouse tried to get to sleep contained in the detention centre, INTERPOL’s Workplace of Authorized Affairs (OLA) in Lyon swung into motion, emailing the INTERPOL workplace in Canberra at 2:56am.

In response to the AFP/INTERPOL chronology, the OLA mentioned it had discovered by way of media stories that Hakeem “may be an asylum seeker or granted refugee status in Australia”.

The INTERPOL OLA requested for affirmation of this and identified that it was “required under its Rules and procedures to consider whether a subject is an asylum seeker or refugee before issuing a Notice. At the time of consideration they had no knowledge of subject’s status”.

If INTERPOL’s personal chronology is right, the primary contact between INTERPOL Canberra and INTERPOL OLA was instigated by France not Australia, and it was triggered by a media report.

At 8:11am INTERPOL Canberra emailed Dwelling Affairs asking for Hakeem’s visa standing.

At 1:42pm a director from the Safety Evaluation Help Part inside Dwelling Affairs responded, confirming that Hakeem had a everlasting safety visa.

At 3:03pm after receiving recommendation from Dwelling Affairs, INTERPOL contacted the OLA in France to inform them Hakeem was a refugee on a safety visa. Armed with this data, INTERPOL cancelled the Purple Discover inside 24 hours.

AFP Deputy Commissioner Ramzi Jabbour believes these delays didn’t “change the course of events” for Hakeem.

As soon as the Purple Discover was rescinded, he remained in Thailand for over 70 days. By now a judicial course of was underway into his potential extradition to Bahrain.

In the long run, lobbying from human rights teams, the Australian Authorities and people like Foster put sufficient strain on the Thai Authorities for them to terminate proceedings and permit Hakeem to return to Melbourne on February 12.

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The aftermath

Foster believes the revelations in these emails obtained by the ABC, and different particulars which have emerged warrant an unbiased inquiry.

“The most appropriate way forward is for an independent review to ensure this doesn’t occur to any other refugees who are travelling,” he mentioned.

“The abuse of the INTERPOL Red Notice system, which is rampant around the world, cannot be used as it was in Hakeem’s case to try and have an extradition back to their host country against their internationally recognised human rights.”

Radha Stirling says she will likely be lobbying the Australian Authorities to make adjustments to its practices.

“Countries like Australia have zero protocols in place to protect citizens from INTERPOL abuse despite the issue having been highlighted in media and documentaries, and by organisations,” she mentioned.

“Had Hakeem been extradited to Bahrain and executed, the AFP could have faced lawsuits. This in itself should be enough to probe AFP internal affairs to consider changing their protocols.”

The Department of Home Affairs conducted an internal review into “the circumstances leading up to Mr al-Araibi’s detention”. The report “did not identify any systemic weakness” however did determine “remediation actions” together with revising procedures referring to Purple Notices and the usage of group emails for sharing data.

Dwelling Affairs appears decided to not take the blame for Hakeem’s arrest in Bangkok.

“It should be noted that Mr al-Araibi’s decision to travel, the procedures followed by Thai authorities when a Red Notice is in place, and other factors contributed to his ongoing detention. Given this, even if this Red Notice had been lifted he may still have been detained in Thailand at the request of Bahrain,” the report mentioned.

When requested in Senate Estimates if he’d like to supply an apology to Hakeem, Border Power Commissioner Michael Outram mentioned: “To offer an apology for him would say that I’m accepting that outcome, what happened in Thailand, was entirely due to that error. I can’t say that without speculating.”

Hakeem says he and his spouse are nonetheless traumatised by what occurred. For him, crucial factor is that his spouse will get an apology.

“Sometimes my wife is crying, because she remembers what happened to me in Thailand,” he mentioned.

“This is a big mistake. I hope in the future it won’t happen to me, or any other people … I could have been killed. It’s not just a big mistake for me, but for my wife, my family, my friends.”

* Not her actual title.

Subjects:

refugees,

immigration,

government-and-politics,

federal-government,

international-law,

foreign-affairs,

soccer,

sport,

melbourne-3000,

thailand,

bahrain,

australia

First posted

October 11, 2019 04:57:41


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