Refugee footballer receives heroes welcome after touching down in Australia

Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi is back on Australian soil after being released from detention in Thailand.

After 70 days in a Bangkok prison prison, the Bahraini refugee arrived at Melbourne Airport this afternoon alongside former Socceroo Craig Foster, who championed strongly for his release.
The 25-year-old was greeted by a massive media scrum as he emerged from the international arrival hall.

“Australia is my country,” al-Araibi said.”I love Australia.”

It follows a lengthy battle involving the Australian government, human rights groups and the public.


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Al-Araibi was detained at Bangkok airport on November 27 when he arrived with his wife for their honeymoon.
Thai authorities say they made the arrest was made after Bahrain issued an Interpol Red Notice for his detention on November 7.
He was sentenced by Bahrain to 10 years jail in absentia, accused of being involved in a  firebombing of a police station in 2012.
As a result, Al-Araibi fled Bahrain in 2014, was granted refugee status by Australia and plays soccer for semi-professional Melbourne club Pascoe Vale.
After two months in prison, al-Araibi was freed by Thai authorities on Monday afternoon after Bahrain requested the case be dropped with no explanation.
His wife has not seen him throughout the entire deal and also issued a statement on Tuesday.

“My heart is now full with gratitude. Just so thankful that these tears are falling out of relief and joy,” Al-Araibi’s wife said in a statement, posted online by his team, Pascoe Vale Football Club.

“Finally this nightmare has ended, I am very happy to see everyone happy with me at this moment, thank you all for my support and I would like to say thank you Australia.

“I love you all and thank you from the heart, well done all, we did it.”

The saga is expected to continue with Australian authorities under fire for passing on the notice to Thai authorities before his arrival.
“We’ll have a look at that aspect of it and the AFP commissioner will have something to say in due course,” Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton told reporters in Canberra on Tuesday.

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