Published: Fri, January 11, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

Australia praises Thai action on Saudi woman seeking asylum

Australia praises Thai action on Saudi woman seeking asylum

Alqunun's case has again highlighted the precarious cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

Ms Payne later told reporters that Australia was assessing Ms al-Qunun's request for resettlement, but there was no specific timeframe.

In a statement to 10 daily, a spokesperson for the department said it would consider her referral for resettlement in Australia.

Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is now staying in a Bangkok hotel under the care of the United Nation's refugee agency (UNHCR), which has been processing her application for refugee status ahead of possible resettlement in Australia.

En route to Australia, she barricaded herself in a Thailand hotel room to avoid being deported. Human rights activists say many similar cases have gone unreported.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with senior Thai officials in Bangkok on Thursday.

"The unique thing about this case is that she had access to social media, and was able to report on it and bring the world's attention to her plight", said Pearson.

Ms al-Qunun's asylum application was fast-tracked, partly because of security concerns after the young woman's father and brother arrived in Bangkok and asked Thai police to see her.

Thai officials agreed to admit her temporarily under the protection of United Nations officials who granted her refugee status on Wednesday.

Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun has been granted asylum in Australia, according to a Thai official.

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A spokesman for Canada's foreign minister said he could not confirm she was coming to Canada.

"Her father is relieved that she is safe", Gen Surachate said, adding that the "UNHCR will find a third country that will accept her in two days".

A Korean Air flight carrying Ms Alqunun left Bangkok for Seoul on Friday night at 11:37pm Bangkok time, a Thai airport official said.

"Yes, Australian has granted her asylum, but we are waiting to hear where exactly she is going", a Thai immigration police officer told CNN.

She said had been confined inside a hotel room at the airport, under the guard of men she said were from the Saudi embassy and Kuwait airlines.

In recent weeks Canada has issued sanctions against 17 Saudis linked to the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and is reviewing its deal to supply light armoured vehicles to the kingdom.

It noted that Hakeem al-Araibi, a refugee and "torture survivor" from Bahrain granted residence in Australia, has been detained by Thailand since November awaiting a hearing on a Bahraini extradition request. It said her case had inspired millions and should remind people of the bravery and sacrifices of people who flee their native lands for safety.

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".

Ms Alqunun later tweeted the video of that meeting and wrote that her "Twitter account has changed the game against what he wished for me".

If she had made it to Australia, she would have been just one of the thousands of would-be refugees who turn up at Australian ports, airports, and borders who face lengthy waits, albeit in relative safety.

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