Australian foreign minister in Thailand as Saudi teen seeks asylum

Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun chats with Thai Immigration Police Chief Surachet Hakparn and an unidentified UNHCR officer at the Suvarnabhumi international airport

READ MORESaudi woman ends Thai airport hotel standoff placed'under the care of UN refugee agency

Fleeing them while travelling in Kuwait throws her into conflict with Saudi Arabia's "guardianship" system, which allows male family members to make decisions on behalf of female relatives, she said.

The UN's refugee agency has said it considers her to be a legitimate refugee.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is a genuine refugee - unlike the multitudes of economic migrants that flooded Europe.

"I think the most important thing is a young woman in these very very hard circumstances is supported appropriately through the United Nations processes and that countries like Australia who are in a position potentially to provide her with support are able to work from that point once those are finalised and determine what the next steps are", Ms Payne said.

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.

Her possession of an Australian tourist visa and very public expression of interest in going to Australia put pressure on Canberra to take the lead. Human rights activists say many more similar cases will have gone unreported.

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

Ms Alqunun and her supporters drew global attention to her case through a social media campaign launched mostly on Twitter.

The decision to give haven to the 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun capped a almost week-long drama that highlighted the power of social media to call attention to her case and reverse initial plans by Thai officials to deport her back to Kuwait, where she fled her family while on holiday.

Trick serve gives Tomic advantage over Kyrgios
However, the manner of the victory left viewers completely gobsmacked. I didn't play a lot of tennis past year ― which was my own fault.

Federal officials had signaled earlier in the week that Canada would be open to taking in the teenager, after she had asked Canada for help, via her Twitter account.

The agency credits the Canadian federal government for arranging her travel, and says her plight gives a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide.

The Immigration police chief said the father and brother had told him that the case was a family matter and not related to relations between Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

However, the office of Canada's foreign minister said it could not confirm the 18-year-old had been granted asylum.

"I spend a lot of time critiquing the refugee process", she said, "but this is one case where it seems to be working".

Sophie McNeill, a reporter with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who has had exclusive access to al-Qunun, said Friday that al-Qunun shut down her Twitter account, but is "safe and fine".

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, will board a Korean Air flight from Bangkok to Seoul on Friday night, immigration chief Surachate Hakpark said, before boarding a connecting flight to Canada.

"I understand that there have been death threats against her but I don't know the details", said Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch, adding even threats from online trolls need to be taken seriously. She was admitted to Thailand on Monday while the United Nations processed her request.

Latest News