Refugee footballer detained in Thailand and threatened with extradition to Bahrain said he feels sure “no one can follow me now,” after becoming an Australian citizen on Tuesday.
Hakeem al-Araibi, who was granted refugee status and residency in Australia in 2017 after fleeing Bahrain, became an Australian at a ceremony in Melbourne.
The 25-year-old shot to international fame when he was arrested while on honeymoon in Thailand last year.
He was wanted by Bahrain on offences linked to the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
Amid a worldwide outcry, he was eventually allowed back to Melbourne, where he plays semi-professional football.
Spotting a big smile on his face and a salmon-pink jacket, al-Araibi posed for photos with Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne after the ceremony at Federation Square in Melbourne.
“I am very grateful to you, now I feel save. No one can follow me now,” al-Araibi wrote on Twitter Tuesday.
Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi has returned home to a celebrity welcome in Australia hours after the threat of extradition to Bahrain was lifted.— Sky Sports Football (@SkyFootball) February 12, 2019
More: https://t.co/6l8jTOnbhY pic.twitter.com/ox0KSqwhzy
“It’s a wonderful and awesome feeling to gain all this respect in my citizenship ceremony, I’m really proud to see Marise Payne… and other government representatives participating in my ceremony it make me feel secure.”
Payne told the ceremony the massive outpouring of support for the footballer “played an enormous part in ensuring he was returned to Australia”.
Refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi receives a hero's welcome in Australia after being detained for over 2 months in Bangkok due to an extradition request from Bahrain. pic.twitter.com/jW3dSLm3mk— Al Jazeera English (@AJEnglish) February 12, 2019