Australian foreign minister in Thailand as Saudi teen seeks asylum

Australian foreign minister in Thailand as Saudi teen seeks asylum

The Tweet read, '18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun fled Saudi Arabia as she said her family would kill her for choosing to leave Islam - do you respect her decision?'

The Australian also reported the teenager appears to be headed to Canada after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) withdrew its referral to Austalia to take her as a refugee.

With political sentiment and public attitudes towards refugees having hardened in some countries in recent years, resettlement - the mechanism by which Ms.al-Qunun has been accepted by Canada - is available only to a fraction of the world's 25.4 million refugees, typically those at greatest risk, such as women at risk. She had said in her online postings that she was afraid of such an encounter.

Her story has also put Saudi Arabia's guardianship laws, which restrict many aspects of women's lives, back under worldwide scrutiny.

Alqunun was stopped last Saturday at a Bangkok airport by immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport.

Jacquie Love from women's rights organisation Secret Sisterhood said Qunun's story had touched her heart.

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.

Qunun is now on her way to Canada, officials in Thailand said earlier in the day, less than a week after she barricaded herself inside a hotel in Bangkok and refused to be returned to her family.

After barricading herself in an airport hotel room, the 18-year-old launched a social media campaign via her Twitter account that drew global attention to her case.

Ms Payne later told reporters that Australia was assessing Ms al-Qunun's request for resettlement, but there was no specific timeframe.

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Thai police say Rahaf al-Qunun's father is still in Thailand and opposes her application to resettle.

She was taken into the care of the UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, and Australia's department of home affairs announced that her case had been referred to officials in Canberra.

"And actually his tribe is one of the largest tribes in Saudi Arabia, so it's quite influential and she certainly would have faced grievous physical harm and perhaps death if she had been sent back based on what I've been told by our researcher and others", he said.

She meant to fly on to Australia, but barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok's main airport on Sunday after Thai immigration officials attempted to deport her back to the Middle East.

Mr Trudeau said Canada would always help to defend human rights and the rights of women.

'They don't know about my life and they don't know how my family treats me, ' she said.

Qunun's Twitter account was no longer active on Friday.

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.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun's appeal for refugee status has underscored the severe restrictions that women in Saudi Arabia face.

Alqunun had previously said on Twitter that she wished to seek refuge in Australia.

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