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giftedviz.com January 18, 2019


Australia considering resettlement for runaway Saudi woman

13 January 2019, 08:26 | Darnell Patrick

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Rahaf Alqunun, who fears being killed by her relatives if she returns to Saudi Arabia, is now in Thailand where United Nations refugee authorities have been processing her request for asylum.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum before she was detained by Thai authorities on Sunday. She had hoped to travel to Australia where she has friends before she was detained at the Bangkok airport this past weekend and threatened with deportation.

When she refused and appealed to Thai immigration officials, she was escorted to a transit hotel.

After a tense standoff in the airport hotel, where Ms Alqunun barricaded herself in her room, Thai authorities allowed UNHCR representatives to meet her.

Australian officials have strongly hinted that Qunun's request will be accepted.

Ms al-Qunun's father and brother arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday but she refused to see them.

"The UNHCR has referred Ms Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement", Australia's Home Affairs Department said, adding it would "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".

"Everybody was watching. When social media works, this is what happens", said Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, of the global outcry.

Alqunun's Twitter account has attracted tens of thousands of followers in less than 48 hours and her story grabbed the attention of governments, activists and well-known figures all over the world.

She used a Canadian tourist's phone to send a message, a video of which was posted to Twitter, saying her family would kill her.

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The UN agency said it was "very grateful" officials did not send the women back against her will.

Since Saturday Ms al-Qunun has been tweeting about her circumstance, with her case highlighting the issue of women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

Ms Alqunun fled to Thailand saying she feared her family, which she accused of abuse, would kill her.

"Shorten did write to the prime minister on Tuesday indicating that if she had a valid claim we support their efforts to offer her settlement in Australia".

In 2017, 24-year-old Saudi woman Dina Ali Lasloom fled to the to the Philippines, but was forcibly returned to Saudia Arabia. "I want asylum", she said.

By early Sunday afternoon, Mr Robertson had notified the United Nations refugee agency in Thailand and several foreign embassies about the unfolding case, and they began to contact Thai authorities.

"When it became clear that she wasn't going to leave, I decided it was important to stay and have someone documenting what was going on", Ms McNeill said. She said access to twitter had "changed the game" in what was wished for her.

It praised Thailand for its actions in Alqunun's case, but said the country had not treated other asylum-seekers in the same responsible manner.

The latest incident comes against the backdrop of intense scrutiny on Saudi Arabia over the shocking murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record. The 18-year-old captured the world's attention in a series of Twitter posts that at times read like an worldwide thriller - with very real consequences.

He was speaking after meeting Abdalelah Mohammed Alsheaiby, charge d'affaires at Saudi Arabia's embassy in Bangkok, while discussing Thailand's stance on al-Qunun's much-publicised case. But she reported that Saudi Arabian officials took her passport in Bangkok.



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