Australia mulls Saudi teen's asylum request as UNHCR takes charge of case

Australia mulls Saudi teen's asylum request as UNHCR takes charge of case

Earlier Thai immigration authorities denied Qunun's allegations that they were acting at the behest of the Saudi government, saying she was refused entry to Thailand on Saturday night because she did not have the proper documents for a visa on arrival.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, captured an worldwide spotlight after she pleaded on social media for help in seeking asylum, saying her life would be in danger if she was sent back to Kuwait, where she had slipped away from her family during a trip there and boarded a flight to Bangkok.

Women in Saudi Arabia are subject to male guardianship laws, which mean they need a male relative's permission to work, travel, marry, open a bank account, or even leave prison.

Rahaf was vacationing in Kuwait with her family when she planned her escape with the help of a friend, allegedly to escape mental and physical abuse they put her through, MailOnline reported.

"We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back (Qunun) against her will and are extending protection to her", he said. "They will take me to Saudi Arabia and my father will kill me, because he is so angry", she added.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunan barricaded herself in a hotel room at an worldwide airport in Bangkok, Thailand to avoid deportation.

"The claims made by Ms Alqunun that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning", a Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman said. However, immigration police chief Hakparn said she would not be sent anywhere against her wishes. She claimed that she fled her family fearing for her life and had been planning to head to Australia where she hoped to seek asylum.

She said Saudi and Kuwaiti officials had taken her travel document from her when she landed - a claim backed by Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

'There is an airport person who constantly follows me.


On Twitter, she wrote of being in "real danger" if forced to return to her family under pressure from Saudi authorities. Thai police refuse to help me'.

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

Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said he would talk to the United Nations refugee agency about the potential of a meeting between the family members.

The Thai government "needs to explain why diplomats from Saudi Arabia are allowed to walk in closed areas of the Bangkok airport, seizing one of their citizen's passports", he said.

Bloomberg wasn't able to speak to Al-Qunun or independently verify her story, though she posted a copy of her passport on Twitter.

They have since reversed plans to expel Miss Qunun due to concerns over her safety, the immigration chief said. "And I finally got my passport back".

She had asserted her independence and renounced Islam but had been forced to pray, wear a hijab and was beaten by her brother. "My family threatens to kill me for the most trivial things".

The Saudi teenager said she was certain she would be jailed if she were sent back to Saudi Arabia. "The embassy considers this issue a family matter", it said in a post on Twitter. Her whereabouts remain unknown.

The Saudi embassy in Thailand and officials in Riyadh could not be reached for immediate comment.

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