United Nations refers Saudi refugee case to Australia

United Nations refers Saudi refugee case to Australia

United Nations refers Saudi refugee case to Australia

Qunun said she planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her at the airport.

Australia's Department of Home Affairs hinted at the possibility of granting Alqunun refugee status, saying it was "pleased" the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was assessing her claim.

The 18-year-old claims she was abducted and had her passport confiscated by Saudi Arabian diplomatic staff after she arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Sunday. Alqunun said she was taken to a transit hotel room in the airport as Thai officials arranged for her to be deported.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun has documented her bid to flee her allegedly abusive family with minute-by-minute social media updates, intensifying the global spotlight on Saudi Arabia's rights record.

A young Saudi woman is asking for Canada's help after tweets about her efforts to flee abuse and seek asylum overseas put her in the global spotlight.

She arrived in Bangkok on Saturday from Kuwait, saying she feared her family would kill her if she was forced to go home.

On Monday evening local time, Thailand's chief of immigration police, Surachate Hakparn, said the country would "take care of her as best we can".

"We haven't heard from the Australian government yet about this, but if confirmed that would be quite shameful of the Australian government to cancel her visa knowing the threats that await her in Saudi Arabia", said Amnesty International's Middle East campaigns director Samah Hamid.

Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun walks with Thai immigration authorities at a hotel inside Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, on January 7, 2019. But the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok claims it is only "monitoring her situation".

She is staying in a Bangkok hotel while the UNHCR processes her application for refugee status, before she can seek asylum in a third country. Both countries have said she was stopped because she didn't have a return ticket, hotel reservation or itinerary with her upon arrival.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun is now staying at a Thai government shelter while the United Nations refugee agency assesses her case.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said "the claims made by Ms al-Qunun that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning". Once, she said, her family locked her up in a room for half a year because she cut her hair in a style they disliked.

Until recently, Alqunun had been living with her parents and six siblings in Ha'il, Saudi Arabia, where her father is a government official according to the Daily Mail.

Even though Thailand has at least 100,000 refugees within its borders, the country is not a signatory to the UNHRC and has no legal protection to those who seek asylum.

"She's an adult woman who has escaped Saudi Arabia's repressive and discriminatory "guardianship" laws and these men must recognize the rules have changed", he said, adding it is "solely her decision" whether or not to meet them.

But on Tuesday, the Thai immigration office released a video clip of its officials meeting Saudi diplomats to discuss the case.

"She is now under the sovereignty of Thailand; no-one and no embassy can force her to go anywhere", he said.

In 2017, a young Saudi woman Dina Ali Lasloom was forcibly returned to her homeland after she was detained at Manila airport in the Philippines, and has since reportedly disappeared.

Speaking to The Guardian, Qunun's friend Nourah Alharbi said the outpouring of support on social media had made a huge difference.

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