Published: Sat, January 12, 2019
Worldwide | By Jermaine Blake

UN asks Australia to consider Saudi teen for 'refugee resettlement'

UN asks Australia to consider Saudi teen for 'refugee resettlement'

On Wednesday, the Australian Department of Home Affairs revealed that it will consider the 18-year-old's referral from the UN.

Elaine Pearson, the Australian director of Human Rights Watch, said that Australia should come to Al-qunun's defense on moral grounds.

Some Saudi female runaways fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years.

The UN's refugee agency said on Tuesday it was investigating the case of the teenager. But her bravery has shone a light on the appalling treatment of women in Saudi Arabia - one of the world's most oppressive regimes.

Hakeem al-Araiby, a Bahraini refugee and torture survivor who was living in Australia, has been detained by Thailand for weeks as he awaits an extradition hearing.

She said: "They will kill me".

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the teenager who locked herself in a Thailand airport hotel room to avoid being returned to her abusive home in Saudi Arabia, has been granted protection as a refugee by the United Nations.

The teen wrote of being in "real danger" if she is forced to return to her family, posting a copy of her passport to prove her identity.

Qunun said she had been planning to seek asylum in Australia but was stopped by Thai immigration officials upon her landing on Sunday, reports Agence France-Presse. "We have no idea what he is going to do. whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her", Robertson said.

"The government has said that promoting women's rights is a priority as part of its foreign policy; well here's a concrete case where they can protect a young woman's life, and the government should be seizing that opportunity and making its views widely known".

"Let's show moral leadership that she can be given a safe haven here in our wonderful country", she told reporters in Adelaide on Tuesday.

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On Monday evening local time, Thailand's chief of immigration police, Surachate Hakparn, said the country would "take care of her as best we can".

But Saudi Arabia's charge d'affairs in Bangkok, Abdullah al-Shuaibi, denied Saudi authorities were involved.

It also said the embassy had made contact with her father, a senior regional government official in the kingdom, "to inform him on her situation".

Saudi Arabia enforces male guardianship laws, which require that women, regardless of age, have the consent of a male relative - usually a father or husband - to travel, obtain a passport or marry.

He told Australia's ABC that he was concerned about the arrival of Alqunun's father in Thailand.

Thailand is not a signatory of the United Nations convention on refugees and those seeking protection are often left in years of limbo as they wait for third countries to grant them asylum.

When someone makes very serious allegations of abuse, torture or a threat to their life, authorities have to take it at face value and allow the proper protocols of investigation to occur, Ms Stirling said.

"[Ms] Rahaf is not a political asylum case", he insisted.

A British woman launched an online petition calling on Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to grant al-Qunun asylum and issue her an emergency travel document. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years and returned home.

The comments sparked anger on social media.

In October, the brutal murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey further heightened tensions and put global scrutiny on the country's human rights record.

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