Trudeau confirms Saudi asylum seeker coming to Canada

Lamar Ellis
January 12, 2019

Police Chief Surachate Hakparn says the 18-year-old woman, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, is leaving on a flight late Friday evening.

While barricading herself in an airport hotel room, she launched a social media campaign via her Twitter account that drew global attention to her case.

In downtown Sydney on Thursday, four women dressed in jeans and calling themselves the Secret Sisterhood held a topless protest outside the building housing the Saudi Consulate, calling on Australia to grant Alqunun residency.

After the arrests, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland, tweeted "Canada stands together with the Badawi family in this hard time, and we continue to strongly call for the release of both Raif and Samar Badawi".

Several women had been forced to return home in recent years, they say, adding that many similar cases had gone unreported.

Canada's acceptance of Alqunun is likely to further upset its relations with the Saudi rulers.

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".

The decision is likely to exacerbate Canada's already poor relations with Saudi Arabia, which previous year barred the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh after Ottawa criticised Saudi authorities for detaining women's' activists.

Payne told reporters that Australia's review of Alqunun's case is already underway.

Payne is also expected to discuss the case of a Bahraini footballer with Australian asylum status who has been jailed in Thailand and faces extradition back to Bahrain.

The UNHCR welcomed Canada's decision and also acknowledged Thailand had given Qunun temporary refuge.

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Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters: "Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world".

Activists have called on Thai authorities to "show humanity" to Alaraibi in the same way that they had to Qunun.

By Friday, Alqunun had closed down her Twitter account.

Following a 48-hour stand-off at Bangkok airport, some of it barricaded in a transit lounge hotel room, she was allowed to enter Thailand and was then processed as a refugee by the UNHCR.

He earlier said that several countries including Canada and Australia were in talks with the United Nations refugee agency on accepting Alqunun.

She meant to fly on to Australia, but barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok's main airport on Sunday after Thai immigration officials attempted to deport her back to the Middle East.

Alqunun's successful gambit comes amid renewed attention on Saudi Arabia's treatment of women. "When the United Nations made a request that we grant Ms.al-Qunun asylum we accepted".

On Friday afternoon Rahaf posted a final cryptic tweet on her profile saying "I have some good news and some bad news" - shortly after her account was deactivated in response to death threats she had faced, her friends said.

A spokesperson for her family told the BBC that they did not wish to comment and all they cared about was the young woman's safety.

Mr.al-Araibi was convicted for vandalizing a police station in Bahrain and sentenced to 10 years in prison in absentia.

Araibi's case is being considered by Thailand's justice system, she said.

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