Authorities admit mistakes over Hakeem

Australia's border authorities have admitted making mistakes in relation to Hakeem al-Araibi.
Australia's border authorities have admitted making mistakes in relation to Hakeem al-Araibi.

Australia's security chiefs have admitted making mistakes in relation to refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, who languished for months in a Thai prison.

Mr al-Araibi, a permanent resident of Australia, was arrested in Bangkok in November after Bahraini officials pursued him over vandalism charges.

The 25-year-old returned to Melbourne last week after Thailand decided to drop extradition proceedings against him.

Australian authorities have faced questions about their role in tipping off Thai officials that al-Araibi was travelling to the country.

Australian Border Force boss Michael Outram accepted some responsibility for his detention.

Mr Outram said an ABF officer neglected to inform the Australian Federal Police and Department of Home Affairs that Mr al-Araibi was under protection.

This would have prevented Thailand being alerted to an Interpol red notice issued against him.

"It is clear that human error occurred within the ABF process," he told a Senate committee on Monday night.

The AFP has also identified a "gap" in its handling of the case, but apportioned most of the blame to Home Affairs.

The AFP, which hosts an Interpol office and has staff seconded there, flagged the Interpol notice with border authorities.

However, the federal police and Interpol were unaware al-Araibi was a refugee.

"Neither the AFP nor the Australian Interpol NCB can access this information; we rely on notifications from the Home Affairs department," AFP Commissioner Andrew Colvin told the committee.

"The Home Affairs department provided Mr al-Araibi's visa status to the AFP on the 28th of November, the day after his detention in Thailand."

Interpol would not have issued the red notice if they knew about Mr al-Araibi's refugee status.

The day after Mr al-Araibi was arrested in Thailand, an AFP officer emailed Home Affairs about his case.

Bahrain raised separate allegations with Interpol that the 25-year-old departed Australia on fake travel documents.

An AFP employee raised this matter with Home Affairs, who informed them Mr al-Araibi's documents were legitimate.

Home Affairs also flagged the fact Mr al-Araibi held a protection visa; this was the first time the AFP learned of his visa status.

However, the department's response slipped through the cracks.

The AFP employee had gone home and did not return to work until after Home Affairs provided separate advice about Mr al-Araibi's protection visa.

The AFP insists this "gap" had no impact on Mr al-Araibi's detention, as it occurred the day after his arrest.

Australian Associated Press