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9 Jan, 2019 08:32

Saudi teen who fled from family & dramatically self-barricaded in Thailand gets UN refugee status

Saudi teen who fled from family & dramatically self-barricaded in Thailand gets UN refugee status

Fleeing her family and ‘saved’ from deportation following social media outcry, a young Saudi woman is one step closer to receiving asylum in Australia, while local officials say she won’t get “special treatment.”

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees granted refugee status to Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, on Wednesday. She was referred to Australia for resettlement.

The Australian government said that it will evaluate al-Qunun’s case according to its standard procedures, just like it does with other UN referrals, and declined to make further comment. Minister for Home Affairs Peter Dutton told reporters that the Saudi woman won’t get any “special treatment” with regards to the asylum process.

Australian media reported earlier that officials are ready to issue a humanitarian visa to Rahaf if the UN rules that she is in need of international protection. Local politicians and activists have been calling on the prime minister to provide al-Qunun with emergency travel documents and let her in as soon as possible.

Also on rt.com Saudi woman barricades herself in Thai hotel fearing relatives will kill her at home

Rahaf, a Saudi national, fled her family last week. She boarded a plane in Kuwait, hoping to seek asylum in Australia, but was intercepted at an airport transit zone in Bangkok, Thailand. She claimed that a Saudi diplomat seized her passport with plans to forcibly send her home. She then barricaded herself inside airport’s hotel room, refusing to leave until UN officials intervened on her behalf.

In emotional posts and videos shared online, al-Qunun pled for help, fearing that relatives will kill her for publicly denouncing Islam – a crime punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. Her plight sparked outcry on social media and quickly gained the attention of human rights campaigners. Thai authorities eventually vowed not to expel Rahaf.

Saudi Arabia denied ever planning to apprehend al-Qunun and send her home, calling the whole affair a “family matter.”

Also on rt.com ‘Under UN care’: Saudi woman ‘rescued’ from deportation after social media storm

The kingdom’s diplomats met with Thai immigration officials on Tuesday. They seemed to be irritated by the level of exposure Rahaf’s case has received.

“I wish you had taken her phone, it would have been better than [taking] her passport,” a Saudi official said during the meeting, as quoted by Reuters.

Al-Qunun is currently staying at an undisclosed location. The woman’s friends, who help manage her Twitter account, said that she is tired from the standoff in the hotel and needs rest. Rahaf earlier thanked the online community for helping her. Twitter “has changed the game” against what the Saudi diplomats planned to do, she wrote.

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