Saudi teenager seeking asylum may get fast-tracked refugee status

Teen Locks Herself in Room After Fleeing Allegedly Abusive Family

Qunun said she planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her at the airport.

In a statement from the government, Ms Alqunun will be subject to Australian checks before she is granted a humanitarian visa, including character and security assessments.

"The UNHCR has referred Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement", the Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.

Robertson told CBC's As it Happens that the 18-year old was confined to her room for nearly six months.

In an earlier and separate explanation released on Twitter, the embassy also denied sending officials to Suvarnabhumi airport to meet Qunun as she arrived or impounding her passport - as she alleged.

Ms Qunun's father and brother arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday evening and have asked to see her.

In Saudi Arabia, she would not be able to travel overseas without the permission of a male guardian, so Qanun took the opportunity during a family visit to Kuwait and boarded a flight to Bangkok with the intention of reaching Australia.

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The Thai government allowed her to enter the country temporarily under the protection of the UNHCR while her case was being assessed.

Rahaf Alqunun, who fears being killed by her relatives if she returns to Saudi Arabia, is now in Thailand where United Nations refugee authorities have been processing her request for asylum.

"We have no idea what he is going to do", he said.

"We haven't heard from the Australian government yet about this, but if confirmed that would be quite shameful of the Australian government to cancel her visa knowing the threats that await her in Saudi Arabia", said Amnesty International's Middle East campaigns director Samah Hamid. Surachate said that police could not confiscate her phone because she was not being detained and said that the Saudi diplomat's remark was "just an opinion" and "nothing to be taken seriously".

The Australian government said it was monitoring the case closely.

The UNHCR has now assessed her case and found she is a refugee.

"Al-Qunun says she doesn't want to meet with her father or brother".

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"The government will be making no further comment on this matter", it said. "My life is in real danger if I am forced to return to Saudi Arabia".

But the Thai immigration chief, Surachate Hakpan, said the men would have to wait to learn whether the UN's refugee agency would allow the request. After one hour he came back with five or six people, I think they were police or something and then they told me my father is so angry and I must go back to Saudi Arabia.

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.

Thai immigration chief Surachet Hakparn speaks outside the Saudi embassy after a meeting with Saudi officials in Bangkok on Tuesday.

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.

Alqunun said her male guardian had reported her for travelling "without his permission".

Another Saudi woman, Dina Ali Lasloom, was in April 2017 returned to Saudi Arabia from the Philippines - also against her will as she faced a forced marriage, according to a report by HRW.

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In some cases, Saudi authorities were involved in forcing women to return to their families and in other cases, local authorities suspected the women of seeking asylum and deported them, the activist said.

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