Published: Wed, January 09, 2019
Worldwide | By Angelina Lucas

UNHCR investigates Rahaf Alqanun's case for asylum

UNHCR investigates Rahaf Alqanun's case for asylum

Alqunun says she had a visa to continue her journey to Australia, but media reports say the Australian government has now canceled it.

The incident comes as Saudi Arabia faces intense scrutiny over the shocking murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi a year ago, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, was stopped in Thailand's Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok on January 5 while attempting to fly from Kuwait to Australia. Her account quickly racked up tens of thousands of followers, feeding an global media frenzy.

He said the UNHCR would work on processing Qunun's request for refugee status.

"The UNHCR and I will. listen to what she wants, whether or not she wants to receive asylum to which country, and we will help coordinate".

Another Saudi woman, Dina Ali Lasloom, was stopped in transit in the Philippines in April 2017 when she attempted to flee her family.

"Thailand is a land of smiles. We will not send anyone to die", he added.

Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun, 18, flew from Kuwait on a ticket she had to Australia.

It said that "for reasons of confidentiality and protection" it would not release details of their meeting.

Alqunun's planned forced departure this morning was averted as she stayed in her hotel room, with furniture piled up against the door, photos she posted online showed.

Human Rights Watch's Australian director, Elaine Pearson, said since Australia has expressed concern in the past about women's rights in Saudi Arabia, it should "come forward and offer protection for this young woman". Gen. Surachate Hakparn, according to The Associated Press. "There's a security guard watching me", she said in a video posted to Twitter.

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"They said we do not have enough evidence", she told AFP, adding she planned to appeal. "No one, no embassy can force her to go anywhere", Surachate said.

A tweet on the Saudi Foreign Ministry official account denied allegations that its embassy had confiscated her passport.

Lawmakers and activists in Australia and Britain urged their governments to grant asylum to Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who was finally allowed by Thailand to enter the country late on Monday, after almost 48 hours stranded at Bangkok airport under threat of being expelled.

"She will be deported back to the State of Kuwait where her family live".

"If the visa has been cancelled it would be very concerning", she told the Guardian. In Saudi Arabia she would have been unable to travel without a man's consent.

Fearful: Rohaf Mohammed Alqunun was expected to meet her father in Thailand after she fled her family, saying she would be killed for renouncing Islam.

Surachate also said if Thai authorities decide not to send her back to Saudi Arabia then they would need to explain why to Saudi authorities in order not to affect the countries' relations.

Robertson also said there's been clear coordination between the Thai government and the Saudis on her. But he denied the Saudi teenager was being detained by Thai authorities.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said Thailand should not send Ms Qunun back to her family because she says she faces danger.

Asked why she was seeking refuge in Australia, she said: "Physical, emotional and verbal abuse and being imprisoned inside the house for months".

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