Friday, 18 January, 2019

Saudi teen flying to Canada, Justin Trudeau says ‘pleased’ to offer asylum

Australia Considering Resettlement for Fleeing Saudi Woman BBC backtracks after asking if Muslim teen 'should be killed'
Melinda Barton | 11 January, 2019, 22:49

Under the kingdom's strict guardianship laws, adult women must obtain permission from a male guardian to travel overseas, marry or be released from prison.

Thailand initially said it would deport her at the request of Saudi embassy officials, barring her from travelling on to Australia where Ms Qunun said she had meant to claim asylum.

Activists have called on Thai authorities to "show humanity" to Alaraibi in the same way that they had to Qunun.

"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.

After the 18-year-old refused officials' attempts to have her board a flight from the Thai capital to Kuwait on Monday, she barricaded herself inside an airport hotel room and took to social media to start a campaign that ended up garnering global attention to her case.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency welcomes the expected arrival in Canada of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun and the decision of the Canadian Government to provide worldwide protection and a long-term solution for her there as a resettled refugee.

Rahaf's swift use of Twitter saw her amass more than 100,000 followers within a week, highlighting her plight at a time when Saudi Arabia's human rights record is under heavy scrutiny following the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago.

Payne will meet with Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong as well as holding a bilateral meeting with her Thai counterpart, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, as part of her first official visit to Thailand as foreign minister.

On Wednesday, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees found Qunun to be a refugee and referred her to Australia for resettlement.

Surachate discussed Alqunun's situation on Tuesday with Saudi Charge d'Affaires in Thailand Abdalelah Mohammed A. Alsheaiby.

Global News reached out to the UNHCR Canada for a comment, but a spokesperson said due to "protection reasons" the agency can not talk about her case.

"Obviously the fact that it became high profile may have heightened any risk to her should she return, that's certainly one argument I've seen put", Wong said.

Thai authorities initially threatened to deport her after she arrived in Bangkok from Kuwait last weekend.

Thailand's immigration chief told reporters earlier on Friday that she's already on her way to Toronto. She later told reporters that Australia is assessing Alqunun's request for resettlement but there was no specific timeframe.

Police Chief Surachate Hakparn said the 18-year-old woman, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, would leave late Friday evening.

The Saudi embassy in Bangkok said it "did not demand her deportation" and that the case is "a family affair".

The case goes through normal processing such as security and character checks which can take months or even years depending on available information and how easy it is to corroborate, an immigration insider told the Guardian.

"She's just been receiving a lot of death threats", McNeill wrote, adding that Alqunun would be back on Twitter after a "short break".

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.