UN asks Australia to consider Saudi teen for ‘refugee resettlement’

Share

She planned to seek asylum in Australia and expressed fears that she would be killed if she were sent back to Saudi Arabia by Thai Immigration officials who had detained her at the airport.

The Department of Home Affairs in Australia confirmed the decision by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in a statement on Wednesday.

Qunun said sending her back would likely result in imprisonment and was "sure 100%" that her own family would k‌i‌ll her."My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair", she revealed.Robertson said Qunun's renouncement of Islam also puts her, "at serious risk of prosecution by the Saudi Arabian government".

In a Twitter update on Wednesday, Ms al-Qunun thanked her 107,000 followers for their "support in my hard psychological situation" and said that she had "regained my strength" after a dramatic few days.

"The girl has violated immigration and residency laws because she does not have a return ticket or a hotel reservation, and she does not have a tourism program", the statement read.

Before the UNHCR's referral, health minister Greg Hunt said Australia would consider giving Ms Alqunun a humanitarian visa if the UNHCR process found her to be a refugee.

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

Australian officials have strongly hinted that al-Qunun's request would be accepted.

"The UNHCR has referred Ms Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement", Australia's Home Affairs Department said, adding it would "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals". Her Twitter account, created on January 6, soared to over 109,000 followers and #SaveRahaf was a trending hashtag.

Ms Qunun's family could not be reached to respond to her allegations of abuse.

"He wants to take his daughter back home, her mother fell sick after hearing her daughter ran away", Surachate said.

"There are a lot of women in Saudi Arabia like us", who still languish under the country's repressive male guardianship system, SH says.

Halfway around the world, retweets by Saudi Twitter users were noticed by Egyptian-American activist Mona Eltahawy in Montreal who began translating and retweeting Ms Qunun's Arabic tweets at 4am Thailand time, even though she was initially unsure if the account was authentic. "This should be the standard for any individual who claims that his or her life is in danger".

A young woman who claimed to have helped Ms Alqunun escape told The Australian her friend chose the Australian tourist visa option because it was one of the few offered online.

AFP was unable to contact Saudi authorities for comment on the footage. In the past, Thailand have often breached their responsibilities to asylum seekers and refugees.

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. Go on social media now and watch accounts of so many young Saudis saying, 'Rahaf, you've shown us that we can do this! They also urged governments to provide her asylum. Alqunun said she was taken to a transit hotel room in the airport as Thai officials arranged for her to be deported.

Share