Australia considering resettlement for runaway Saudi woman

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Her Twitter posts from an airport hotel room on the weekend, which accused Saudi officials of trying to force her back to an abusive family, went viral and caught the attention of the United Nations refugee agency.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun on her mobile phone as she sat barricaded in a hotel room in Thailand's global airport in Bangkok on Monday.

"The Australian government is pleased that Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun is having her claim for protection assessed by the UNHCR", a spokesperson for Australia's Department of Home Affairs told NPR on Tuesday.

Robertson told CBC's As it Happens that the 18-year old was confined to her room for nearly six months.

The 18-year-old claims she was abducted and had her passport confiscated by Saudi Arabian diplomatic staff after she arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Sunday.

But armed with a phone, she barricaded herself into an airside hotel room and fought back - live-tweeting her fears of deportation in a campaign that swiftly galvanised worldwide support and prompted a sharp U-turn by Thai officials.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's father and brother have arrived in Thailand but she is refusing to see them.


While Ms McNeill boarded a flight from Sydney to Bangkok, Ms Qunun was holed up in an airport transit hotel and afraid she would be forced onto the next flight back to Kuwait.

On Monday evening local time, Thailand's chief of immigration police, Surachate Hakparn, said the country would "take care of her as best we can".

Without her family's knowledge, the young Saudi rebel obtained an Australian visa and an airline ticket to Sydney, Australia, where she meant to ask for asylum.

Now her dad has arrived in Bangkok with the wish to "talk to her", Thailand's immigration chief said today. "She didn't get that [social media] support and that's why she's in Saudi Arabia now - she's disappeared", Alharbi said.

Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt told ABC TV on January 8 the government had successfully requested the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to process her case quickly.

Rahaf said she had been suffering beatings and emotional abuse from her family members according to media reports.

The embassy of Saudi Arabia in Bangkok declined to comment on the case, but the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement through its Twitter account claiming that the embassy "did not impound the girl's passport", as Qunun claimed on Twitter, and that they "did not meet or communicate with her", only with the Thai authorities.


Saudi Arabia drew worldwide plaudits past year when it lifted a longstanding ban on women driving. "This should be the standard for any individual who claims that his or her life is in danger".

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not asked for her extradition".

The UN's refugee agency said on Tuesday it was investigating the case of the teenager.

Thailand is not a signatory to a United Nations convention on refugees, and asylum seekers are typically deported or wait years to be resettled in third countries.

But on Tuesday, the Thai immigration office released a video clip of its officials meeting Saudi diplomats to discuss the case. It said the embassy is not communicating with the teenager, but is communicating with Thai authorities. She alleged that she was being subjected to physical and psychological abuse by her family.

Dina Ali Lasloom, 24, was en route from Kuwait via the Philippines but was taken back to Saudi Arabia from Manila airport by her family.

Baloch noted the power of social media in making her plight a matter that officials could not ignore.


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