News National Federal police commissioner to face Parliament on al-Araibi arrest questions

Federal police commissioner to face Parliament on al-Araibi arrest questions

Save Hakeem
Former Socceroo Craig Foster was the face of the Save Hakeem movement. Photo: Getty
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Australian Federal Police Commissioner Andrew Colvin will front Parliament on Monday to explain how a “miscommunication” with the Australian Border Force led to the jailing of refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi.

A blame game has erupted over why Australian authorities ever allowed an Interpol red notice to be raised on the refugee as he travelled through Thailand. He was arrested and detained for almost 70 days.

Mr Colvin will address Senate estimates at 9am and a spokesman said he will comment on the matter in his opening statement.

On Friday, the commissioner insisted it was another agency – not the AFP – that failed to raise the fact that al-Araibi was a refugee.

“There’s been a lot said about the AFP over the last two months and our role with Interpol,” Mr Colvin said.

“The AFP were not aware that he was in Australia. We were not aware at the time of his presentation at the border leaving to Thailand that he was the subject of a protection visa.

“As soon as we became aware we notified Interpol and the red notice was immediately rescinded. It’s important that we’re dealing with the facts here.”

Under Interpol rules, a red notice should not ever have been raised for the 25-year-old refugee because it could have led to him being returned to the country he fled fearing persecution.

The Bahrain-born al-Araibi, 25, left his home country after being detained and tortured during the Arab Spring uprising in 2011.

He was granted refugee status and has been living in Melbourne and playing football with Pascoe Vale in the Victorian Premier League. He was visiting Thailand on his honeymoon.

Last week, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton indicated that Mr Colvin would make a statement soon on the matter. When he declined to do so, speculation grew the AFP was angered it was being unfairly blamed for the error that led to al-Araibi spending two months in jail.

Both the AFP and border force are in the super portfolio created for Mr Dutton’s department to run in 2017, despite warnings from critics the mega-merger should not proceed.

Scott Morrison refused questions when Hakeem al-Araibi visited Canberra last week. Photo: ABC

Prime Minister Scott Morrison also declined to take journalists’ questions when he posed for photographs with al-Araibi when the footballer visited Parliament last week upon his return to Australia.

The New Daily revealed last week that a miscommunication between the border force, which failed to tell the AFP he was a refugee, was to blame and that an inquiry had been launched.

“Border force notified us that someone had presented at the barrier that was subject to a red notice,” Mr Colvin said on Friday.

“Beyond that, we weren’t aware that he was subject to a protection visa.

“The Home Affairs Department are doing an end-to-end review to look at where the lessons can be learnt to make sure this doesn’t happen to anybody else.”

Labor has vowed to pursue the matter this week in Senate estimates, where it will also ask the Department of Foreign Affairs and the border force to explain what happened.

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