National

Citizenship not too far away for Hakeem

By AAP Newswire

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has told refugee footballer Hakeem al-Araibi his Australian citizenship isn't "too far away".

The 25-year-old met with the prime minister in Canberra on Thursday, two days after returning to the country following more than 70 days in a Thailand prison.

"It's wonderful to have you here, I know it's been a trying time for you," Mr Morrison said.

"We are so pleased you are here now and that you can come and live your life here in Australia."

The prime minister said he hoped to see Mr al-Araibi at a citizenship ceremony soon, adding: "I don't think it's too far away".

Foreign Minister Marise Payne confirmed the footballer's citizenship application was "well under way".

Mr al-Araibi thanked the two, as well as former Socceroo Craig Foster, who helped lead the campaign to free him.

He looks forward to joining his semi-professional Melbourne club Pascoe Vale in a home clash with Bentleigh next Friday.

"Next week I'm back in training," he said.

The prime minister gifted Mr al-Araibi a soccer ball, which he signed 'welcome home Hakeem', and asked the footballer to sign one for him.

Earlier in the day, Mr al-Araibi watched a friendly football match between politicians and professional players, including Foster and former Matildas captain Kate Gill on grounds next to Parliament House.

There, he met a host of MPs including Sports Minister Bridget McKenzie, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten and Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong.

Labor MP Andrew Giles, who represents the Victorian electorate of Scullin where Mr al-Araibi lives, told the footballer he had written to immigration minister on his behalf.

Mr al-Araibi and his wife were honeymooning in Bangkok when he was arrested in November at the request of his birth country Bahrain, which was seeking his extradition.

He was wanted after fleeing the country when charged with vandalising a police station in 2012 and sentenced to 10 years in jail in absentia.

Mr al-Araibi denied the crime, saying he was playing in a nationally televised soccer match at the time.

Under diplomatic pressure, Bahrain this week dropped the case, allowing Mr al-Araibi to return to Australia.

On his return to Melbourne, Mr al-Araibi openly declared his love for Australia.

"I don't have citizenship yet but my country is Australia. I will die in Australia and I love Australia. Thank you very much," he said.

Senator Derryn Hinch labelled Thursday's events as "ironic", coming a day after a bid for a parliamentary inquiry into Mr al-Araibi's detention was blocked by Labor and the coalition.

"Ironic watching Labor and Liberal senators lining up for photo op with Hakeem at P'Ment House today. Same people who yesterday voted against a Senate inquiry into how the hell he was in a Thai jail on Oz advice in the first place," he tweeted.

The coalition said there was no need for a parliamentary inquiry, but Labor is expected to pursue the issue at Senate estimates hearings next week.