Saudi Woman Running Away from Family is Now Under UNHCR Protection

Saudi Woman Running Away from Family is Now Under UNHCR Protection

Saudi Woman Running Away from Family is Now Under UNHCR Protection

Qunun was detained on arrival at Bangkok and denied entry to Thailand while en route to Australia, where she said she meant to seek asylum.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun on her mobile phone as she sat barricaded in a hotel room in Thailand's worldwide airport in Bangkok on Monday.

Australian national broadcaster ABC reported that the country's Home Affairs Department announced late Tuesday that it would consider al-Qunun's application for asylum if she was found to be a genuine refugee, and called on the Thai authorities and UNHCR to assess her claim as quickly as possible.

"Pending the outcome of that, if she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa", he told the Australian Broadcasting Corp.

The 18-year-old claims she was abducted and had her passport confiscated by Saudi Arabian diplomatic staff after she arrived at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on Sunday.

Gen. Surachate Hakparn said that Alqunun's father and brother arrived together in Bangkok on Tuesday but Alqunun refused to meet them.

Friends of Saudi woman Ms Alqunun claim she was nearly forced onto a flight from Thailand back to Kuwait despite seeking asylum in Australia.

"We have no idea what he is going to do. whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her".

She told The Daily Mail, "When I came to Thailand someone told me that he will help me to get a visa for Thailand in the airport".

Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun in Bangkok.

She was held in an air side hotel room while Thai officials said they would put her on the next flight back.

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Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's case echoes that of another Saudi woman who was in transit to Australia in April 2017.

Thai immigration services said that such a meeting is possible only with approval from United Nations personnel.

Renouncing Islam is a crime punishable by death under the Saudi system of syariah, or Islamic law, though the punishment has not been carried out in recent memory. Both countries have said she was stopped because she didn't have a return ticket, hotel reservation or itinerary with her upon arrival.

The embassy of Saudi Arabia in Bangkok declined to comment on the case, but the Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement through its Twitter account claiming that the embassy "did not impound the girl's passport", as Qunun claimed on Twitter, and that they "did not meet or communicate with her", only with the Thai authorities. 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.

Activists say Saudi Arabia is one of the most repressive countries to women in the world and forbids females from obtaining a passport, traveling overseas or marrying without a male guardian's permission.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not asked for her extradition".

Thailand has never ratified the United Nations convention that recognises refugee status, and it considers refugees and asylum seekers as it would any other migrant.

He said the Thai government "needs to explain why diplomats from Saudi Arabia are allowed to walk in closed areas of the Bangkok airport, seizing one of their citizen's passports".

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. It said the embassy is not communicating with the teenager, but is communicating with Thai authorities.

Rahaf's posts immediately caused outcry on social media and attracted a flurry of responses.

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