Canada willing to accept Saudi woman seeking asylum, Thai police say

Rahaf Al Qunun

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun's attempt to flee the ultra-conservative kingdom has become a cause celebre for rights groups since the 18-year-old landed in Bangkok from Kuwait over the weekend.

A Twitter user known as Nourah, whom Ms Alqunun has referred to as a friend, tweeted that the teen "received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account".

"It would be a pretty stunning reversal if they didn't take her", he said.

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

Thai authorities had threatened to deport her but with the help of activists, diplomats and a hastily opened Twitter account Qunun launched an impassioned campaign for asylum.

Qunun expressed delight overnight that the United Nations refugee agency had granted her refugee status.

"The Department of Home Affairs will consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".

The Australian newspaper reports Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is headed to Canada, while the Daily Mail Australia reports she has been granted resettlement in Australia.

"If she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa", health minister Greg Hunt had said before the United Nations determination was public.

Qunun had flown to Thailand from Kuwait to escape her family, saying she feared they would kill her because she renounced Islam.

Her father, who denies mistreating her, will remain in Bangkok "until he knows which country she is going to", Thailand's immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters on Thursday.

"Her father is relieved that she is safe", Gen Surachate said, adding that the "UNHCR will find a third country that will accept her in two days".

A similar point was made by UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch, who said that what was different in Alqunun's case was that "the wave of all of the voices of solidarity and support came together, joined up in terms of caring for this individual".

On Sunday Ms Qunun told AFP her family was "abusive" and once locked her in a room for six months just for cutting her hair.

Ms Payne said she had also spoken to Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister about the detention of Hakeen AlAraibi, and his possible return to Bahrain. Saudi religious law forbids her to travel alone without permission of her male guardian. "The question we asked on air "How do you feel about the 18-year-old Saudi woman's decision to leave her family and religion?' was aimed at our listeners who had faced similar dilemmas in their own life regarding family and religion".

The Saudi embassy in Bangkok has said it did not demand the teenager's deportation and that the case was a family affair.

She had earlier tweeted: "I have some bad news and good news". She made it to an airport in the Philippines, but despite the scene she made with her desperate pleas for safety and freedom, Dina was last seen screaming and being dragged onto a Saudi Arabia Airlines flight from Manila to Riyadh.

Saudi Arabia has come under fire since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul past year.

New spotlight on Bahraini footballer? She had said in her online postings that she was afraid of such an encounter.

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

Payne reiterated Australia's call to Thailand not to send al-Araibi back to Bahrain.

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