Rahaf al-Qunun: Dad of Saudi refugee arrives in Bangkok Thailand

09 January, 2019, 11:09 | Author: Orlando Hughes
  • Immigration Police Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn right walks with Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok Thailand

Alqunun said she planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her at the airport.

The United Nations has deemed Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to be a refugee, referring her case to Australia.

Australia's national broadcaster, the ABC, reports that the country's Home Affairs Department announced yesterday that it would consider al-Qunun's application for asylum if she was found to be a genuine refugee.

The Australian government previously said it would carefully consider granting a visa to Qunun if she is found to be a refugee by the United Nations.

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 global support and prompted a sharp U-turn by Thai officials.

Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters that Qunun's father and brother had arrived in Thailand on Tuesday.

A young Saudi woman is asking for Canada's help after tweets about her efforts to flee abuse and seek asylum overseas put her in the global spotlight.

"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.

Thailand initially said it would deport her at the request of Saudi embassy officials, barring her from travelling on to Australia where Ms Qunun said she had meant to claim asylum.

But Saudi Arabia's charge d'affairs in Bangkok, Abdullah al-Shuaibi, denied Saudi authorities were involved.

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"It would have been better if they confiscated her cell phone instead of her passport because Twitter changed everything". "She didn't get that [social media] support and that's why she's in Saudi Arabia now - she's disappeared", Alharbi said.

Who is Rahaf al-Qunun?

"If I go back to Saudi Arabia, I will be dead".

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

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." .

Many asylum seekers are refused entry and quietly deported, while those who make it into Thailand can wait years to be resettled to third countries or find themselves in prolonged detention.

Thai Immigration Chief Surachata Hakpan said the two will have to seek permission from the U.N.'s refugee agency before gaining access to Alqunun. Once, she said, her family locked her up in a room for half a year because she cut her hair in a style they disliked.

Saudi Arabia enforces male guardianship laws, which require that women, regardless of age, have the consent of a male relative - usually a father or husband - to travel, obtain a passport or marry.

But on Tuesday, the Thai immigration office released a video clip of its officials meeting Saudi diplomats to discuss the case.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the activist said there had been instances where Saudi women runaways were stopped by authorities in Hong Kong or the Philippines en route to Australia or New Zealand.

The comments sparked anger on social media. Senator Sarah Hanson-Young had earlier urged the prime minister to issue emergency travel documents for the Saudi woman and admit her into the country. It said the embassy is not communicating with the teenager, but is communicating with Thai authorities.

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