Wednesday, 16 January, 2019

Saudi teen Alqunun leaves Thailand for Canada to seek asylum

Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun shakes hands with Thai Immigration Police Chief Surachet Hakparn Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun shakes hands with Thai Immigration Police Chief Surachet
Jeannette Daniel | 11 January, 2019, 22:49

Under the kingdom's strict guardianship laws, adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel overseas, marry or be released from prison.

After learning of the UNHCR's decision to grant her refugee status on Wednesday al-Qunun's twitter account tweeted: "Don't let anyone break your wings, you're free. fight and get your RIGHTS!"

Ms Payne later told reporters that Australia was assessing Ms al-Qunun's request for resettlement, but there was no specific timeframe.

Australia has dropped the strongest hints so far after the United Nations urged the country to accept her but its foreign minister said this week that it was still assessing the request.

She then barricaded herself inside a hotel room, posting live updates on social media in which she said she feared for her life should she be forcibly returned to her family.

BANGKOK (AP) - Australia's foreign minister praised Thailand on Thursday for its handling of a young Saudi woman who fled her family to seek asylum in Australia, but also reminded it of continuing concern about a Bahraini soccer player granted asylum in Australia who remains in Thai detention.

She will be subject to Australian checks before she is granted a humanitarian visa, including character and security assessments.

She then started a social media campaign, live-tweeting her case and attracting global attention.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, arrived in Thailand from Kuwait after fleeing her family, who she says subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.

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Thai officials agreed to admit her temporarily under the protection of United Nations officials who granted her refugee status on Wednesday.

"Ms.al-Qunun's case was dealt with on a fast-track "emergency" basis in light of the urgency of her situation", said Grandi.

Reuters cited the Thai immigration chief as the source who said Alqunun was going to Canada - which has been in a simmering months-long diplonatic spat with Saudi Arabia.

Thailand's immigration chief Surachate had earlier told reporters Friday that "two or three" countries were ready to offer her asylum.

The UN refugee agency coordinated with Canadian authorities to resettle her there, and she will be in the care of the International Organization for Migration once she arrives, he added. Describing her case as a "family affair", it said Saudi officials had neither seized her passport - as Alqunun had claimed several times - nor demanded her deportation back home. Al-Araibi, however, faces a court trial in Thailand for extradition as requested by Bahrain for his role in anti-government protests. "We are sorry the original wording about 'respecting her decision" was open to misinterpretation".

"Rahaf temporarily suspended her #Twitter account because she has been receiving some very nasty, very real death threats".

Ms Alqunun later tweeted the video of that meeting and wrote that her "Twitter account has changed the game against what he wished for me".

The next day, Canada's Foreign Ministry issued a tweet calling on Saudi Arabia to "immediately release" Samar Badawi as well as "all other peaceful #humanrights activists".

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