Canada grants asylum to Saudi runaway teen fleeing allegedly abusive family
Canada grants asylum to Saudi runaway teen fleeing allegedly abusive family
Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne will be meeting senior officials
11 January, 2019, 20:11
Australia's foreign minister Marise Payne met her Thai counterpart on Thursday, as her country appeared poised to offer asylum to a young Saudi woman who fled her family to Thailand in a drama relayed in real-time over Twitter.
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.
But according to UNHCR spokesperson Adrian Edwards, the organisation can not confirm at this stage whether it has in deed withdrawn its referral to Australia.
Footage released by Thai immigration shows Abdulilah al-Shouaibi, Saudi embassy charge d'affaires in Bangkok, complaining in a meeting Tuesday with Gen Surachate that Ms Qunun's smartphone should have been confiscated. "I think there are many cases like this that go unreported".
Ms Payne later told reporters that Australia was assessing Ms al-Qunun's request for resettlement, but there was no specific timeframe.
"Yes, Australian has granted her asylum, but we are waiting to hear where exactly she is going", a Thai immigration police officer told CNN.
A Twitter user known as Nourah, whom Qunun has referred to as a friend, tweeted that Qunun "received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account".
"Obviously the fact that it became high profile may have heightened any risk to her should she return, that's certainly one argument I've seen put", Wong said.
After learning of the UNHCR's decision to grant her refugee status on Wednesday al-Qunun's twitter account tweeted: "Don't let anyone break your wings, you're free. fight and get your RIGHTS!" The Canadian ambassador to Saudi was sent home, and relations have worsened since.
Australia seemed the likely destination until news of the UNHCR withdrawing its referral.
Immigration chief Surachate Hakparn said al-Qunun's father and brother, who have arrived in Thailand, could not object to the United Nations process as she has already been granted refugee status.
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She was later allowed to enter Bangkok.
Thai authorities had threatened to deport her but with the help of activists, diplomats and a hastily opened Twitter account Qunun launched an impassioned campaign for asylum.
"The Department. will consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals", it said in a statement.
The case goes through normal processing such as security and character checks which can take months or even years depending on available information and how easy it is to corroborate, an immigration insider told the Guardian.
It praised Thailand for its actions in Ms Qunun's case, but said the country had not treated other asylum-seekers in the same responsible manner.
In a now-deleted Tweet, BBC Asian network asked viewers if they "respected the decision" of a teenager who fled Saudi Arabia saying she would be killed for renouncing Islam.
"[The] cause and reasoning [of both cases] are entirely different", she said.
The 18-year-old even railed against online trolls who were spreading rumours on social media that she was lying about her situation.
"It would be a pretty stunning reversal if they didn't take her", he said.
"There are, as I have just said, a number of steps in the process, including in terms of that assessment", Ms Payne said.
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