Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun: Australia to process United Nations refugee referral

In this Monday Jan. 7 2019 image made from video released by Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun  Human Rights Watch Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun views her mobile phone as she sits barricaded in a hotel room at an international airport in Bangkok Thailand. Alqunun says

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun Human Rights Watch

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirms Canada has granted asylum to the 18-year-old Saudi woman, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who had fled alleged abuse from her family as a refugee, at the request of the UNHRC during a media availability in Regina on Friday.

The news began circulating and eventually Phil Robertson, the Deputy Asia Director of Human Rights Watch, tweeted out that al-Qunun needed access to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHRC). "We are, as I've said, very concerned about his detention, very concerned about any potential for return of to Bahrain".

Al-Qunun's case has raised the state of women's rights in Saudi Arabia, where several women have been caught trying to seek asylum after fleeing their homes.

Qunun arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport in transit from Kuwait last Saturday, when she was denied entry by Thai immigration officials.

Her online campaign was so successful that Saudi charge d'affaires Abdalelah Mohammed told Thai officials through a translator: "We wish they had confiscated her phone instead of her passport".

Although her asylum case has moved at lightning speed the final maneuvers that led to her flight to Canada remain a mystery.

Qunun is now on her way to Canada, officials in Thailand said earlier in the day, less than a week after she barricaded herself inside a hotel in Bangkok and refused to be returned to her family.

The 18-year-old's saga grabbed worldwide attention this week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family, which denies any abuse.

The UN refugee agency coordinated with Canadian authorities to resettle her there, and she will be in the care of the International Organization for Migration once she arrives, he added.

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"She will fly to Canada at 11:15 pm tonight (1615 GMT)", immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told AFP.

On Wednesday, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees found Qunun to be a refugee and referred her to Australia for resettlement.

Thailand's immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said Rahaf al-Qunun has left Thailand for Canada on board a Korean Air flight.

A loose group of activists and friends bolstered Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun's social media campaign using the hashtag #SaveRahaf and were able to successfully stave off deportation.

She meant to fly on to Australia, but barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok's main airport on Sunday after Thai immigration officials attempted to deport her back to the Middle East.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks to the press at the Australian embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, January 10, 2019.

'Rahaf received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account, please save Rahaf life, ' @nourahfa313 wrote.

Around midday on Friday, Qunun posted on her Twitter account that she had "bad and good news!"

In recent weeks Canada has issued sanctions against 17 Saudis linked to the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and is reviewing its deal to supply light armoured vehicles to the kingdom.

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