One step closer to Australia for Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun

Lamar Ellis
January 12, 2019

The status will allow Rahaf Mohammed Al-qunun, 18, to apply for asylum in another country, the New York Times reported.

It said any application by Ms Al-Qunun for a humanitarian visa would be "carefully considered" once the UNHCR process has concluded.

She is now in the care of United Nations officials after claiming her family would kill her if she were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where she has renounced Islam and "rebelled" against her father.

Thailand initially said it would deport her at the request of Saudi Arabian embassy officials, barring her from traveling on to Australia where al-Qunun said she had meant to claim asylum. She was forced to return to Saudi Arabia and was not publicly heard from again, according to activists tracking her whereabouts.

Australia is considering granting a Saudi woman, who is trying to escape her allegedly abusive family, refugee resettlement following a referral from the United Nations, the country has said.

"Please I need u all. I'm shouting out for help of humanity", she tweeted.

"The decision to meet with the family is ultimately Ms. Al Qunun's and the responsibility for her safety and physical protection lies with the Thai authorities", UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch told NPR. Surachate said that police could not confiscate her phone because she was not being detained and said that the Saudi diplomat's remark was "just an opinion" and "nothing to be taken seriously".

"We have no idea what he is going to do", he said.

"Thailand is a land of smiles. We will not send anyone to d‌i‌e", he was quoted as saying. We will not do that. "We will adhere to human rights under the rule of law". But Alqunun barricaded herself in her airport hotel room. "Should Ms Mohammed Alqunun be found to have valid protection claims and entitled to asylum, Labor would be supportive of any government moves to offer her humanitarian settlement", Mr Shorten wrote.

Saudi Arabia remains one of the world's most repressive countries for women.

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Qunun has said she believes she will be imprisoned or killed if sent back, and that her family is so strict it once locked her in a room for six months for cutting her hair.

Saudi Arabia has some of the world's toughest restrictions on women, including a guardianship system that allows male family members to make decisions on behalf of female relatives. "My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things". Thai immigration authorities have said that al-Qunun was prevented from onward travel to Australia, having been in contact with the "Saudi Arabia embassy to coordinate" this.

But a government source told The Australian the visa had not been revoked.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne is due in Bangkok on Thursday for a visit arranged earlier, during which she will discuss the case of Bahrain footballer Hakeem AlAraibi, who has refugee status in Australia but is in jail in Thailand.

"Thailand is concerned about their diplomatic relations, their political relations, their economic relations, and their military relations with certain countries,"says Emily Arnold-Fernández, executive director of Asylum Access". It said the embassy is not communicating with the teenager, but is communicating with Thai authorities.

In some cases, Saudi authorities were involved in forcing women to return to their families and in other cases, local authorities suspected the women of seeking asylum and deported them, the activist said.

The comments sparked anger on social media.

In 2017, Dina Lasloom triggered an online firestorm when she was stopped en route to Australia where she planned to seek asylum.

Saudi Arabia's human rights record has come under intense scrutiny since the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi in October.

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