Australian minister hints Saudi teen likely to get asylum

Saudi Runaway Woman

Thailand's immigration police chief met Tuesday with officials from the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok, as Saudi Arabia tried to distance itself from accusations that it attempted to block a young woman's effort to flee from her family and seek asylum overseas.

Alqunun will be subject to a number of checks including character and security assessments to see whether she qualifies for a humanitarian visa, according to the ABC.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is now being evaluated by the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) to assess her need for global protection, a process that usually takes months.

The 18-year-old Saudi teen has been found to be a genuine refugee.

The teenager then barricaded herself inside her room at an airport hotel, and requested to speak to the United Nations refugee office.

Her father, a Saudi government official, and brother landed in the capital last night and immediately asked to see Ms Alqunun.

The Saudi government has denied claims it sent officials to bring Ms Alqunun back to the kingdom.

"The decision to meet with the family is ultimately Ms. Al Qunun's and the responsibility for her safety and physical protection lies with the Thai authorities", UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch told NPR.

She had barricaded herself in her hotel room at the airport after claiming a Saudi official confiscated her passport and planned to forcibly return her to her departure point of Kuwait and onwards to her family in Saudi Arabia, whom she feared would kill her.

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.

Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun walks with Thai immigration authorities at a hotel inside Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, on January 7, 2019.

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A Saudi activist familiar with other cases of women who have run away said they were often young and unprepared for the risks involved in seeking asylum.

The UNHCR in Bangkok has been contacted for comment but has yet to respond.

Who is Rahaf al-Qunun?

He said the family's patriarch had met with the UNHCR this morning and will return to "her country" later today.

Thai immigration officials also said there was no record of an airline ticket onward, which should have allowed her to pass through Bangkok.

A representative from the Australian government said that they are monitoring the case "closely", noting that the claims made by Qunun, "that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning." .

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.

He said both countries were treating the issue as a private family matter and looking for a solution together, adding the UNHCR's processes would take five days. She's accused her family abusing of psychologically and physically abusing her.

Activists say Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive countries to women in the world and forbids females from obtaining a passport, traveling overseas or marrying without a male guardian's permission.

She has also reportedly appealed for asylum from several European countries and Canada. "The Saudi charge d'affaires said he is satisfied and expressed confidence on the work of Thai immigration, of the Thai government, and of the Foreign Ministry yesterday".

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. Like Alqunun, she had set her sights on Australia and reached out for help on social media.

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