Australia weighs Saudi woman's refugee bid

Rahaf al-Qunun: Dad of Saudi refugee arrives in Bangkok Thailand | Daily Star

Saudi teenager could escape to Australia as government said it would 'carefully consider' her claim

Australia's government said Wednesday that it will assess the resettlement case of a Saudi woman who fled from her family now that the United Nations has deemed her a refugee, taking the woman's high-profile quest for asylum a step forward.

This handout picture taken and released by Thai Immigration Bureau on January 7, 2019 shows 18-year-old Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qanun, middle, being escorted by the Thai immigration officer and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees officials at the Suvarnabhumi worldwide airport in Bangkok.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, had said she feared her relatives would kill her if she was forced to return to them as she had renounced Islam.

Wednesday's development marks a significant victory for Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, who is now in Bangkok, after evading her family and traveling alone from Kuwait on Saturday.

On Tuesday, the Thai immigration office released a video clip of its officials meeting Saudi diplomats to discuss the case.

Australia will "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's case echoes that of another Saudi woman who was in transit to Australia in April 2017.

On the same day, she refused to meet with her father and brother who traveled to Thailand.

In a similar case, Dina Ali Lasloom, a young Saudi woman was brought back to Saudi Arabia against her will. "I'm not going to open the door I want United Nations", one later tweet from her account said. Upon arrival in Bangkok, al-Qunun says, she was met by a Saudi embassy official who seized her passport.

There is nothing to suggest her life is in danger other than allegations made by Rahaf al-Qunun. Gen. Surachate Hakparn as saying that Alqunun's father denied the narrative put forth by his daughter.

Saudi Runaway Woman
Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun could be allowed to resettle in Australia

"Until the male guardianship system is done away with, in law and in practice, women's rights in the kingdom can not be realised", she said in a statement. The Guardian confirmed on Monday Qunun had a valid three-month tourist visa for Australia, issued to her Saudi passport.

"They will kill me because I fled and because I announced my atheism", she said. "If I go back to Saudi Arabia, I will be dead".

"She is still in Thailand and Thailand is not a safe country for her", says a friend helping manage Alqunun's Twitter account who asked to be identified by the initials SH.

"We have no idea what he is going to do. whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her".

She had spent almost 48 hours stranded at Bangkok airport under threat of being expelled. The Saudi kingdom, which imposes the world's strictest restrictions on women, has a "guardianship system" which gives men authority in making certain decisions on behalf of their female family members.

Al-Qunun's plight unfolded on social media, drawing support from around the world, which convinced Thai authorities to back down from sending her back to Saudi Arabia.

"It has been reported that Rahaf had a Visa to go to Australia, and meant to apply for asylum".

The organization's Australian director, Elaine Pearson, said she had seen electronic confirmation of her tourist visa, but that Qunun could no longer access her visa page on Australia's immigration website on Tuesday, sparking concern the document had been cancelled.

The latest incident comes against the backdrop of intense scrutiny on Saudi Arabia over the shocking murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi past year, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record.

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