Friday, 18 January, 2019

Saudi teen runaway in Bangkok is 'legitimate refugee'

Australia Considering Resettlement for Fleeing Saudi Woman BBC backtracks after asking if Muslim teen 'should be killed'
Andrew Cummings | 12 January, 2019, 07:00

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was stopped at an airport in Bangkok by Thai immigration officials, who took away her passport.

"Yes, Australian has granted her asylum, but we are waiting to hear where exactly she is going", immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn confirmed to CNN.

"She will fly at 11:15 pm tonight (1615 GMT)", Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told AFP.

Global News reached out to the UNHCR Canada for a comment, but a spokesperson said due to "protection reasons" the agency can not talk about her case.

Several countries including Canada and Australia were in talks with the United Nations refugee agency on accepting Alqunun.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun began tweeting from Bangkok's airport, and a campaign sprang up on Twitter prompting the Thai government to reverse a decision to force the young woman to go back to her family.

Australia has said it will assess the runaway Saudi woman for settlement after the United Nations deemed her a refugee.

Women in Saudi Arabia are subject to male guardianship laws, which mean they need a male relative's permission to work, travel, marry, open a bank account, or even leave prison. Many Saudi women fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years and returned home.

The case is the latest in a series highlighting what human rights activists say is the widespread subservient treatment of women in Saudi Arabia.

A number of countries, including Australia, have considered her case for asylum.

"Canada has always been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world", Trudeau said.

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"She needs to be protected from those who want to murder her, and should promptly be given asylum in Australia", the commentary said.

"Labor is supportive of any government moves to offer her humanitarian resettlement and we wish Ms Mohammed al-Qunun well".

Her father and brother, he said, who had come on what turned out to be a futile visit to try to persuade her to return to Saudi Arabia with them, would be leaving Thailand shortly after her.

En route to Australia, she barricaded herself in a Thailand hotel room to avoid being deported.

Australia's Home Affairs Department said it would "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".

On Monday evening, Thai authorities allowed her to enter the country.

He said the family's patriarch had met with the UNHCR yesterday morning and will return to "her country" later today.

Her tweet garnered plenty of reactions on social media, which speculated the reasons for the account deactivation.

Human Rights Watch Australia has criticised the government's handing of a Saudi teenager's bid for asylum, after the 18-year-old was granted safe haven in Canada. "Just hearing this breaks my heart", she wrote in a message posted on Twitter. She arrived in Thailand on Saturday and was initially denied entry.

Saudi Arabia's human rights record has come under heavy scrutiny since the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago at its consulate in Turkey.

Qunun then went online for help over Twitter, writing of being in "real danger" if forced to return to her family in Saudi Arabia and might be killed.

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