United Nations asks Australia to grant Saudi teen asylum

Teen Locks Herself in Room After Fleeing Allegedly Abusive Family

Rahaf al-Qunun: Dad of Saudi refugee arrives in Bangkok Thailand | Daily Star

A Saudi woman who fled her family and refused to leave a Bangkok hotel has been given refugee status by United Nations, the Australian government says.

The Saudi teenager fleeing her family has been thrown a lifeline by the Australian Government, which indicated it was likely to grant her a humanitarian visa.

But armed with a phone, she barricaded herself into an airside hotel room and fought back - live-tweeting her fears of deportation in a campaign that swiftly galvanised global support and prompted a sharp U-turn by Thai officials.

The Australian government will consider any application for asylum lodged by Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, a fugitive Saudi woman in Thailand, it says.

She was "in transit" for an onward flight to Australia but claims that Saudi officials were "waiting for her at arrival gate".

On Sunday Thai authorities said Qunun would be sent back to Saudi Arabia, but they abruptly changed course as her plight pinballed across social media.

She arrived in Bangkok on Saturday from Kuwait, saying she feared her family would kill her if she was forced to go home. We have no idea what he is going to do ... whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her.

Without her family's knowledge, the young Saudi rebel obtained an Australian visa and an airline ticket to Sydney, Australia, where she meant to ask for asylum.

Al-Qunun then barricaded herself inside an airport's hotel room, refusing to come out until she was granted a meeting with United Nations officials.

Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, the first Australian MP to call for Australia to provide refuge to Ms al-Qunun, said it was "time to bring this courageous young woman to Australia to start her life as a free woman".

Qunun said on Twitter that she was "scared" because her father arrived in Thailand yesterday, but that her passport had been returned to her.

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Since Australia has expressed concern in the past about women's rights in Saudi Arabia, it should "come forward and offer protection for this young woman", Pearson said.

However, Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakpan said the men would have to wait to learn whether the UN's refugee agency would allow them to.

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.

In a series of emotional posts and videos on social media, she said that she escaped from abusive relatives and fears for her life because she had publicly renounced Islam.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not asked for her extradition".

Although Canadian officials said diplomats routinely raise human rights issues with their Saudi counterparts, the Saudi government reacted strongly to the public appeal and retaliated by freezing new trade, recalling its students from Canada and cancelling flights between the two countries.

According to 9 News, the Australian embassy had contacted the Thai government and the UNHCR's Bangkok office to confirm Alqunun could apply for refugee status.

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".

Rahaf also accused her family of subjecting her to physical and psychological abuse.

But she was stopped en route by authorities in Thailand at the request of the Saudi government, which demanded the woman return to her family.

He then "heard her screaming and begging for help from her room, after which he saw them carry her out with duct tape on her mouth, feet and hands".

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