Friday, 22 March, 2019

Canberra to decide Saudi's fate after United Nations refugee ruling

Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun is currently in the care of United Nations officials Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun is currently in the care of United Nations
Patty Aguilar | 11 January, 2019, 22:50

Sophie McNeill, a reporter with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who has had exclusive access to Alqunun, said Friday in a Twitter posting that Alqunun "is safe and fine".

Thai immigration officials told Reuters that Canada had "granted her asylum", however Canadian officials told the BBC they now have "nothing to confirm" on the issue.

But according to UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards, the organisation can not confirm at this stage whether it has in deed withdrawn its referral to Australia.

The office of the Canadian foreign minister, however, said that it can not confirm that the Saudi teen was granted asylum in Canada.

A video screengrab shows Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun.

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

"I understand that there have been death threats against her but I don't know the details", said Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch, adding even threats from online trolls need to be taken seriously.

"She chose Canada. Canada said it will accept her", Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters at Bangkok's main airport.

On Friday, Qunun's twitter account appeared to have been deleted.

Ms Alqunun and her supporters drew global attention to her case through a social media campaign launched mostly on Twitter.

She documented her arrival and subsequent detention in Bangkok on her smartphone, creating new Twitter and Periscope accounts where she received a deluge of supportive messages.

She was later allowed to enter Bangkok.

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Today, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada has officially granted al-Qunun asylum.

Australia seemed the likely destination until news of the UNHCR withdrawing its referral.

Trudeau said that Canadian diplomats in Thailand had been closely engaged in the case of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who fled her family and renounced Islam, which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

She barricaded herself in a hotel room at Bangkok airport after being stopped by officials and expressed fear that she would be killed if she was forced to return.

It garnered enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of United Nations officials, who granted her refugee status on Wednesday. Our diplomats in Thailand have been engaged with our partners and allies - particularly with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees.

The Department of Home Affairs is yet to confirm the reports.

The 18-year-old is staying in a Bangkok hotel under the care of the UNHCR.

Shortly after hearing about Qunun's plight, Australia said that it would "carefully consider" granting Qunun a humanitarian protection visa, if she applied for one.

In recent weeks Canada has issued sanctions against 17 Saudis linked to the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and is reviewing its deal to supply light armoured vehicles to the kingdom. I mean, of course there are good days but they hurt me a lot.

Surachate said her father and brother were due to return home on a flight in the early hours of Saturday. She said she was fleeing abuse by her family.

'I want life. I want to be independent.

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