Canberra to decide Saudi's fate after United Nations refugee ruling

Elias Hubbard
January 10, 2019

Her father has denied physically abusing her or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, among the reasons she gave for her flight, Thailand's immigration police chief said after meeting him on Wednesday. It is still unclear why the woman was detained in Bangkok in the first place.

Thai police say Rahaf al-Qunun's father is still in Thailand and opposes her application to resettle.

"We want to show the world, women can be free and safe and should be able to express ourselves freely and safely", Love said. Rahaf chose Thailand because she believed there was no Saudi embassy there, ' Shahad told The Australian.

Ms al-Qunun saved money for several months for the trip to Australia, where she was to seek asylum following her arrival.

But she was barred from entering Thailand, and the Thai government threatened to deport her back to Kuwait, leading to her barricading herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room with a table and mattress.

She has alleged that she will be killed if she is made to return to Saudi Arabia, where women are subjected to anachronistic social restrictions, including under strict "male guardianship" practices.

Activists have urged the Australian government to support Ms al-Qunun in her bid for asylum in Australia, and said the young woman should be issued with emergency travel documents.

She uploaded videos to Twitter of her interactions with Thai authorities and pleas for help, writing, "I want United Nations!" and "I want UNHCR".

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed on Wednesday that the United Nations refugee agency had referred Ms Alqunun's case to Australia for consideration.

Payne was in the Thai capital, Bangkok, on Thursday after the Australian government and the country's Department of Home Affairs said they would consider giving asylum to Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the Saudi girl.

The case goes through normal processing such as security and character checks which can take months or even years depending on available information and how easy it is to corroborate, an immigration insider told the Guardian.

The Saudi teenager posted the caption "Hey".

On Wednesday the home affairs minister, Peter Dutton, warned there would be "no special treatment" for Qunun.

"When she arrived, she open a new (Twitter) account and her followers grew to 45,000 in one day", he said in Arabic.

Ms al-Qunun is now in the care of United Nations officials and under the protection of Thai police.

When she arrived in Thailand, she claimed she was met by a Saudi diplomat who forcibly confiscated her passport. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right, before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

'He said that he has been taking good care of his daughter, he never forced her or hurt her. He said that in Saudia Arabia there is an agency that enforces the law [against abuse], and he certainly couldn't do anything illegal, ' General Surachate said.

'He has 10 children. "He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes", General Surachate said.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Bangkok intervened in the case after al-Qunun publicised her distress via social media, while human rights defenders and media weighed in on the case to demand protection for her. "I'm happy", alongside a heart and praying hands emoji.

"Shorten did write to the prime minister on Tuesday indicating that if she had a valid claim we support their efforts to offer her settlement in Australia".

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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