Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun who fled ‘abusive’ family given United Nations refugee status
13 January, 2019, 08:24 | Author: Carlos George
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 tried to block a young woman's effort to flee her family and seek asylum overseas.
He said the family's patriarch had met with UNHCR on Wednesday morning and will return to "her country" later today.
She was held in an air side hotel room while Thai officials said they would put her on the next flight back.
After Ms Alqunun barricaded herself inside her Bangkok hotel room, her pleas for help over Twitter garnered tens of thousands of followers, and the attention of the UNHCR.
After a day of insisting that Ms Qunun must be sent back under Thai law, Mr Surachate said she would not be immediately expelled since she could be in danger and he would meet United Nations officials to discuss her case.
"The government has made representations to the Thai government and the Bangkok office of the UNHCR about its serious concerns on this matter and the need for Ms Alqunun's claim to be assessed expeditiously".
Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's case echoes that of another Saudi woman who was in transit to Australia in April 2017.
In a similar case, Dina Ali Lasloom, a young Saudi woman was brought back to Saudi Arabia against her will. But the Thai government has also said that it wants to protect refugees, and immigration officials have said they do not intend to send al-Qunun back.
In a separate interview with Reuters, Robertson revealed that the teen's father and brother have arrived in Bangkok and are demanding to meet her. She told the world defiantly: "I'm real and exist".
Alqunun tweeted that her father had arrived at the Bangkok airport, which had "scared" her, but said she felt "safe" with the UNHCR.
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Saudi Arabia has some of the world's toughest restrictions on women, including a guardianship system that allows male family members to make decisions on behalf of female relatives. Qunun, a daughter of a senior regional government official, also revealed that Saudi and Kuwaiti officials confiscated her passport upon her arrival.
The woman fled from her family and expressed fears for her own life.
"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not asked for her extradition".
AFP was unable to contact Saudi authorities for comment on the footage. We have no idea what he is going to do ... whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her.
Footage released by Thai immigration shows Abdulilah al-Shouaibi, Saudi embassy charge d'affaires in Bangkok, complaining in a meeting on Tuesday with Surachate that Qunun's smartphone should have been confiscated.
He denied abusing or threatening her, and told Surachate that Qunun had "freedom".
A regional crossroads for labor and migration, Thailand houses some 106,000 refugees and asylum seekers, according to figures from UNHCR.
Human Rights Watch earlier called on the Australian government to allow Alqunun's entry into that country, amid worries about her visa status.
The 18-year-old arrived in Thailand, from Kuwait, on Saturday.
Canberra has hinted that it will likely grant her asylum.
The latest incident comes against the backdrop of intense scrutiny on Saudi Arabia over the shocking murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi past year, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record.
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Alqunun was stopped last Saturday at a Bangkok airport by immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport. Canada said it will accept her", Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters at Bangkok's main airport.
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