March 20, 2019

Rahaf al-Qunun flying to Canada in asylum bid

11 January 2019, 10:46 | Devin Moran

Australia Considering Resettlement for Fleeing Saudi Woman

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun in cap smiles as she's introduced to the media at Toronto Pearson International Airport alongside Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs Chrystia Freeland

Al-Qunun's case has highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

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

"'s plight has captured the world's attention over the past few days, providing a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide." said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

She was later allowed to enter Bangkok on Monday evening by the Thai authorities after a tense 48 hours that saw her refuse to board a flight to Saudi Arabia and barricade herself inside a transit lounge hotel room, while the world watched the drama unfold on social media.

Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, is escorted by the Thai immigration officer and UNHCR officials after gaining protection from the agency.

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 campaigners say many similar cases have gone unreported.

Ms Qunun's desperate tweets ricocheted across social media with the #SaveRahaf hashtag drawing an outpouring of support but also the bile of some hardliners in her native country.

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.

The UNHCR eventually granted her refugee status on Wednesday and several countries, including Canada and Australia, had been in talks with the United Nations refugee agency to accept her.

If Canada is taking Alqunun, it could further upset Saudi-Canada relations.

Although her asylum case has moved at lightning speed the final maneuvers that led to her flight to Canada remain a mystery.

Surachate said Alqunun's father wanted his daughter back but respected her decision.

A Korean Air flight carrying Qunun left Bangkok for Seoul on Friday night at 11:37 p.m. Bangkok time, an airport official told Reuters.

Despite reports the 18-year-old was heading to Australia, it appears she may be headed to Canada after the UNHCR withdrew its referral, The Australian reported. She was admitted to Thailand on Monday while the United Nations processed her request. Surachate said that police could not confiscate her phone because she was not being detained and said that the Saudi diplomat's remark was "just an opinion" and "nothing to be taken seriously".

Thailand's chief of immigration police, Surachate Hakparn, has said his country will not deport her to possible death.

Qunun had previously expressed wanting to come to Canada on her Twitter account, which was deleted on Friday after getting death threats, Reuters reported.

A copy of Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun's passport, which she says was removed from her when she landed in Thailand.

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

"Another young Saudi girl - another genuine refugee - was dragged back from an airport to Saudi Arabia to a presumably disgusting fate while trying to escape the country in 2017".

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