Canada and Australia ‘willing to accept Saudi asylum seeker’

World News | Published:

Teenager Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun fled Saudi Arabia for Thailand, claiming she had been abused by her family.

Several countries including Canada and Australia are in talks with the UN’s refugee agency to accept a Saudi asylum seeker who fled alleged abuse by her family, Thai police have said.

The UN is accelerating the case of 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, though Thai officers gave no indication of when the process would be complete.

Ms Alqunun said her passport was seized after she was stopped at an airport in Bangkok on Saturday.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun
The teenager remains in Thailand under the care of the UN refugee agency (AP)

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees eventually granted her refugee status on Wednesday.

Ms Alqunun’s case has highlighted women’s rights issues in Saudi Arabia.

Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and been returned home. Human rights activists say many similar cases have gone unreported.

Saudi Runaway Woman
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, pictured before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok (AP)


After meeting senior Thai officials in Bangkok, Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne said her country is assessing Ms Alqunun’s request for resettlement, but there is no specific timeframe.

Ms Payne said she also raised Australia’s concerns with Thai officials about Hakeem al-Araibi, a 25-year-old former member of Bahrain’s national soccer team, who was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017 after fleeing his homeland, where he said he was persecuted and tortured.

His case is being considered by Thailand’s justice system, she said.

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