United Nations refugee agency takes over case of Saudi woman

Larry Hoffman
January 10, 2019

In an earlier and separate explanation released on Twitter, the embassy also denied sending officials to Suvarnabhumi airport to meet Qanun as she arrived via Kuwait or impounding her passport - as she alleged. "This should be the standard for any individual who claims that his or her life is in danger".

Rahaf just send me this, she just wants you to make sure she is on the hotel, and she still needs help and protection. "We will not send anyone to die", he said.

Alqunun's plight mirrors that of other Saudi women who in recent years have turned to social media to amplify their calls for help while trying to flee abusive families and other obstacles they face in the conservative kingdom.

He said that the Thai authorities were the ones who confiscated her passport for violating the entry regulations and they are taking the appropriate action accordingly.

Surachate also said if Thai authorities decide not to send her back to Saudi Arabia, they would have to provide their reasons to Saudi authorities in order not to not affect the countries' relations.

BBC's correspondent to Bangkok, Jonathan Head, explained that al-Qunun is "frightened and confused". She slipped away from her family while on vacation in Kuwait, reported The New York Times. The country's immigration chief later reversed plans to expel Alqunun citing concerns for her safety.

However, her online appeals successfully drew the attention of the UNHCR, whose representatives escorted her out of her hotel room and into their care on Monday.

The UNHCR said that Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's asylum claim would take "several days" to assess.

The Australian government said it was monitoring the case closely, highlighting that "the claims made by Ms al-Qunun that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning", said a spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

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.

Authorities were going to deport her to Kuwait, where she left her vacationing family, but she barricaded herself in a hotel room at the airport and demanded to speak to United Nations officials.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch, told The Associated Press that Thailand should let Alqunun continue her journey to Australia.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun travelled with her family from Saudi Arabia into neighboring Kuwait.

Australia today vowed to consider an 18-year-old Saudi woman's plea for asylum, further easing fears she could be forcibly returned home. "She received a threat from her cousin - he said he wants to see her blood, he wants to kill her".

"If the visa has been cancelled it would be very concerning", she told the Guardian.

She has now be told she is allowed to stay in Thailand "under their care" and will not be sent anywhere against her wishes.

Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun, 18, flew from Kuwait on a ticket she had to Australia. Saudi Arabia has some of the strictest guardianship laws in the world, which rob women and girls entirely of their individual identity and freedoms.

Qunun is staying in a Bangkok hotel while the UNHCR processes her application for refugee status, before she can seek asylum in a third country.

"She was over-exaggerating. She fled her family from Saudi Arabia and arrived in Thailand, but she didn't have necessary documents to enter".

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