Immigration

Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi 'very grateful' to be an Australian citizen

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A month after the refugee footballer was freed from Bahrain's extradition charges, Hakeem Al-Araibi can now call Australia home.

Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi has become an Australian citizen after a ceremony in Melbourne.

The Bahrain-born player took the oath at Melbourne's Federation Square on Tuesday along with 200 others from 44 different countries.

Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi who received his Australian citizenship during a ceremony in Melbourne.
Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi who received his Australian citizenship during a ceremony in Melbourne.

After enduring months of peril, Hakeem al-Araibi says he finally feels safe. 

“I am very happy to get citizen. Finally no country, no one can follow me now because I am Australian.”

Hakeem admitted he was nervous before going in to take the citizenship test. 

“I didn't sleep the night of the test. I know all the law now, all the Australia law.”

Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi receives his Australian citizenship at a ceremony in Federation Square, Melbourne.
Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi receives his Australian citizenship at a ceremony in Federation Square, Melbourne.
AAP/David Crosling

Mr Al-Araibi posted on Twitter, saying the citizenship made him "feel secure."

Former Socceroo captain and campaigner Craig Foster attended the ceremony, as did Foreign Minister Marise Payne.

Mr Foster, says it's a special day.

“Few Australians had to fight so hard to become an Australian citizen. His challenge was more considerable than most, and the look on his face says much.” 

The widely publicised fight to bring him home, won hearts Australia wide with Mr Al-Araibi saying, "When I come to the airport it was a big moment for me, I couldn’t believe what I see, I’m very grateful.”

Mr Al-Araibi also posted part of Senator Payne's speech from the ceremony to his Twitter account.

Former Socceroo Craig Foster, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi at his citizenship ceremony.
Former Socceroo Craig Foster, Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne and refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi at his citizenship ceremony.
AAP/David Crosling

Craig Foster, also posted to Twitter following the ceremony.

Members from Mr Al-Araibi's football team Pascoe Vale were also present at the ceremony.

Al-Araibi was detained in Thailand on his honeymoon and spent time in a Bangkok jail after his birth country, Bahrain pursued his extradition over vandalism allegations.

He returned to Melbourne in February after Thailand dropped extradition proceedings against him.

Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi (second from right) receives his Australian citizenship.
Refugee footballer Hakeem Al-Araibi (second from right) receives his Australian citizenship.
AAP/David Crosling

Prime Minister Scott Morrison couldn’t make the ceremony, but he made time at the Melbourne Commonwealth Offices afterwards to congratulate Hakeem, and present him with a special gift. 

“This is a tremendous day that we absolutely welcome you into the Australian family. I had a little badge I was going to give you today, but I’m going to give you mine.” 

Removing an Australian flag pin from his own lapel, Mr Morrison affixed it to Hakeem's jacket.

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