One step closer to Australia for Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun

One step closer to Australia for Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun

Rahaf, a Saudi national, fled her family last week.

But, he added, "nobody wants to see a young girl in distress and she has obviously now found a safe haven in Thailand".

Similar to Alqunun, Alaraibi was detained at Suvarnabhumi Airport while leaving after honeymooning in Thailand.

"Thailand is concerned about their diplomatic relations, their political relations, their economic relations, and their military relations with certain countries,"says Emily Arnold-Fern√°ndez, executive director of Asylum Access". He remains in custody at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

UNHCR office in Thailand also declined to comment. Following urgent pleas for help she made over Twitter, she has since been allowed to temporarily stay in Thailand under the care of the U.N.'s refugee agency that will determine her protection claim.

Ms Alqunun had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum before she was detained by Thai authorities on Sunday.

Rahaf al-Qunun has said she fears her family will kill her if she was forced to return home.

Prior to the referral, health minister Greg Hunt said Australia would consider giving Ms al-Qunun a humanitarian visa if she was found to be a refugee.

Indications from Canberra suggest Alqunun may receive a sympathetic hearing.

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The UNHCR said on Tuesday that it would take time to process Ms Qunun's application, and its officials continued to interview her at an undisclosed location. "I'm rahaf mohmed, formally seeking a refugee status to any country that would protect me from getting harmed or killed due to leaving my religion and torture from my family", she tweeted on Monday.

Within 36 hours it prompted Thailand's government to reverse a decision to force the young woman onto a plane that would return her to her family.

"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".

The Thai immigration chief said the Saudi embassy had alerted Thai authorities to the case, saying that the woman had run away from her parents and they feared for her safety. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years and returned home.

Qunun has documented her bid to flee her allegedly abusive family with social media updates.

Thailand's immigration police chief, Surachet Hakpal, told CNN that he would try to set up a meeting with family members if the United Nations agency permitted it. Alqunun said she was taken to a transit hotel room in the airport as Thai officials arranged for her to be deported. Qunun then used social media to seek help from different countries.

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

She later tweeted she felt safe under United Nations protection and her passport had been returned. Qunun, a daughter of a senior regional government official, also revealed that Saudi and Kuwaiti officials confiscated her passport upon her arrival. However, in repeated statements, including one issued Tuesday, the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok said it was only monitoring her situation. Saudi activists say the kingdom, through its embassies overseas, has at times put pressure on border patrol agents in foreign countries to deport the women back to Saudi Arabia. Australian sources told the media there that Ms. Alqunun would be refused entry on the tourist visa because it did not reflect the real reason for her trip.

The latest incident comes against the backdrop of intense scrutiny on Saudi Arabia over the shocking murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi previous year, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record.

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