Australia considering resettlement for runaway Saudi woman

Pauline Gross
January 13, 2019

Rights groups say the system can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families. 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.

Who is Rahaf al-Qunun?

Qunun's father told the UNHCR about his objections to her fleeing and would remain in Thailand until a decision was made, Surachate said, adding that this might come on Thursday. "I'm not safe yet", her account tweeted.

Yet Thailand remains relatively more welcoming than many of its neighbors by simply sporting a UNHCR country office and entertaining asylum requests.

The journalist, Ms Sophie McNeill of Australia Broadcast Corp, began tweeting back to Ms Qunun, and later, the two began privately corresponding by direct message.

"Until the male guardianship system is done away with, in law and in practice, women's rights in the kingdom can not be realised", she said in a statement. She also noted that her passport had been returned to her after it was confiscated on Sunday. She alleged that she was being subjected to physical and psychological abuse by her family. "He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes", Surachate said. "I think this will be fair to both sides", he said.

Immigration Minister David Coleman has been contacted for comment.

"I'd never spoken to her before", she told Reuters.

But on arrival in Bangkok, she was denied entry and detained by authorities.

As Human Rights Watch reported, Lasloom faced "serious risk of harm if returned to her family". "We will take care of her as best as we can".

The Saudi embassy in Bangkok said it "did not demand her deportation" and that the case was "a family affair".

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She then barricaded herself in a hotel room at the airport as Thai authorities were trying to hand her over to her family. The 18-year-old captured the world's attention in a series of Twitter posts that at times read like an worldwide thriller - with very real consequences.

"She does not wish to go back and we will not force her".

"We were inside the room and there were numerous people coming to the door". This would mean that she can't be sent back to them.

The flight to Kuwait City left without Ms Qunun.

Her father and brother arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, but Qunun "refused to see" them, according to Thai immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn, who has been caught up in the global firestorm since Qunun's arrival.

Officials said they would "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".

She was later placed in the care of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) while her bid for refugee status was considered.

The father, whose name was not released and who was not seen by reporters, said he wants his daughter back but respects her decision, police Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn said.

A Tuesday statement from the Saudi Embassy in Thailand denied interfering in Alqunun's case, and said it was only monitoring her situation.

She refused to leave her room during a two-day standoff where she used social media to plea for help, demanding that she meet with United Nations officials.

"When she first arrived in Thailand, she opened a new site (account) and the followers reached about 45,000 within one day", a Saudi official speaking in Arabic through a translator told Thai officials in the video, referring to the Twitter account. "But it is risky and it doesn't always work", he said by phone.

Other reports by GizPress

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