Published: Sat, January 12, 2019
Global Media | By Garry Long

Saudi teen to depart Thailand for Canada asylum - Thai immigration chief

Saudi teen to depart Thailand for Canada asylum - Thai immigration chief

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirms Canada has granted asylum to the 18-year-old Saudi woman, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who had fled alleged abuse from her family as a refugee, at the request of the UNHRC during a media availability in Regina on Friday.

Armed with a smartphone, she hastily opened Twitter account and forced a U-turn from Thai immigration police who handed her into the care of the UN's refugee agency as the #SaveRahaf hashtag case bounced across the world.

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.

Al-Araibi's case is being considered by Thailand's justice system, said Payne.

The UN's refugee agency has ruled Saudi woman Rahaf Al-Qunun is a refugee.

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Ms al-Qunun left Thailand en route to Canada today.

But just days after fleeing a powerful and allegedly abusive family in Saudi Arabia, al-Qunun has already been judged a legitimate refugee by the United Nations and been in contact with Australian officials in Bangkok about resettlement.

The representative in Australia of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, said it was encouraging that Alqunun was able to highlight her situation using social media, and she hoped more Saudi women might act similarly.

An airline security official reported seeing her dragged out of the airport with her mouth, hands and feet bound with duct tape.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is a genuine refugee - unlike the multitudes of economic migrants that flooded Europe.

Qunun arrived in Thailand on Saturday and was initially denied entry.

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A Twitter user known as Nourah, whom Qunun has referred to as a friend, tweeted that Qunun "received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account".

"My brothers and family and the Saudi embassy will be waiting for me in Kuwait", Qunun said by text and voice message from the hotel late on Sunday.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, took a flight to Seoul, South Korea, with a final destination of Toronto, said Police Chief Surachate Hakparn. She later said that Australia was assessing Alqunun's request for resettlement.

Though her asylum case has moved at lightning speed, the mystery over which country will accept Ms al-Qunun remains.

Qunun has accused her family of abuse, a charge they deny.

The ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has come under fire since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul a year ago.

Qunun's case has drawn global attention to the strict rules many Saudi women face and comes at a time when the Gulf country is under increased scrutiny following the gruesome murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Marise Payne, the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, said on Thursday she raised her concerns over his continued detention with the Thai authorities during her trip to the country.

On Sunday Ms Qunun told AFP her family was "abusive" and once locked her in a room for six months just for cutting her hair.

He described the man as being a governor in Saudi Arabia.

She first said she was aiming for Australia where officials had suggested they would give serious consideration to her claim for asylum, which was endorsed as legitimate by the UNHCR on Wednesday.

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