Australia to 'carefully consider' Saudi teen's asylum plea

Will Be Killed If Sent Back: Saudi Woman Stopped From Entering Thailand
Saudi woman barricades herself in Thai hotel fearing relatives will kill her at home

10 January, 2019

"We did not send her back to die", he said on Facebook.

Thailand's immigration police chief met Tuesday with officials of the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok, and said the officials told him they are satisfied with how Alqunan's case has been handled. "I know them. They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong - they say that since I was a child". Via Twitter she wrote that she feared for her life if she was sent back to Saudi Arabia where she said she was being forced into a marriage.

According to Al-Qunun, they forcibly confiscated her passport and she was threatened with deportation.

Abuse by her family was one of the reasons Alqunun cited for fleeing.

Thailand's immigration police chief says the young Saudi woman seeking passage to asylum in Australia will be temporarily admitted to Thailand for evaluation by the United Nations refugee agency.

"She won't be sent anywhere tonight".

She had been holed up in a Bangkok hotel room, after being stopped by Saudi Arabian diplomatic staff who claimed she did not have the correct documentation.

"The Australian government is pleased that Ms Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is having her claim for protection assessed by the UNHCR", a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said.

Saudi Arabia has denied claims that it intervened at the airport and has said she should be returned to her family, arguing that they fear for her safety.

The UNHCR said that according to the principle of non-refoulement, asylum seekers can not be returned to their country of origin if their life is under threat.

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Abdulilah al-Shouaibi, charge d'affaires at the Saudi embassy in Bangkok, acknowledged in an interview with Saudi-owned channel Rotana Khalijial that the woman's father had contacted the diplomatic mission for "help" to bring her back.

The NPS law firm said on Facebook on Monday that the Bangkok Criminal Court turned down its request in the case of 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun because there was not enough evidence and it was not clear who she is.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun remained barricaded in an airport hotel room while sending out desperate pleas for help over social media. "She received a threat from her cousin - he said he wants to see her blood, he wants to kill her".

"It's extremely concerning if it is the case that the visa has been canceled", she told The Associated Press, adding that Australia should allow Alqunun entry in any case.

But denied entry on arrival at Bangkok's main airport this weekend she took to Twitter with an account apparently created as a crisis response route and managed by her and supporters. "He came back with what seemed to be airport security and said that my parents objected and said I must return to Saudi Arabia via Kuwait Airways", she said.

Despite efforts by the Saudi government to curtail the scope of male guardianship laws, women who attempt to flee their families in Saudi Arabia have few good options inside the kingdom.

Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch's Asia deputy director told the British newspaper that the young woman's story should be believed.

Asked why she was seeking refuge in Australia, she told Reuters: "Physical, emotional and verbal abuse and being imprisoned inside the house for months".

And I think the UNHCR is going to try and squirrel her out of Thailand as soon as possible once they find a country that is willing to give this young woman asylum, because their position, from the UNCHR's point of view, appears to be that Thailand isn't a safe place for her to stay permanently.

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