Rahaf Al-Qunun Referred To Australia For Refugee Resettlement By UNHCR

How Saudi teen Rahaf al-Qunun spent months plotting her elaborate escape from her family

'The UNHCR has referred Ms Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement, ' Australia's Home Affairs Department said.

BANGKOK, Jan 10, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne was in Bangkok today after Canberra said it would consider giving asylum to an 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled to Thailand, saying she feared her family, which she accused of abuse, would kill her.

She arrived in Thailand on Saturday and was initially denied entry.

"He's a very courageous young man who in 2016 stood up to the Bahraini Government, stood up to Sheikh Salman, the president of the AFC, and was critical of them publicly and their conduct during that period", he said.

Ms Qunun is now in the care of the UN's refugee agency in Bangkok, which is processing her case.

'The Department of Home Affairs will consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals'.

Australian officials have strongly hinted that Ms Qunun's request will be accepted.

"Any application by Ms Al-Qunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded", a spokesperson said. Social media appears to have played a decisive role in helping Qunun avoiding being sent back to a family she accuses of abusing her.

She only joined the social media site at the start of this month but has quickly racked up more than 100,000 followers. "We will adhere to human rights under the rule of law", according to the Associated Press.

Her father and brother arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, but Ms Qunun "refused to see" them, according to Thai Immigration Chief Lt Gen Surachate Hakparn, who has been caught up in the worldwide firestorm since Ms Qunun's arrival.

Shahad added Ms al-Qunun "thought it was not a risky place" and said the friends had "bought her a ticket to Australia from Thailand but she didn't listen to us". "He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes", General Surachate said.

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Ms Alqunun told SBS News she will "ask the UN" to meet with Ms Payne.

Thai authorities had threatened to deport her but with the help of activists, diplomats and a hastily opened Twitter account Qunun launched an impassioned campaign for asylum.

"Please help", al-Qunun posted on Twitter, "I am in Bangkok about to be forced on a flight back to Saudi where my life is in danger".

Qunun has refused to meet with her father, who arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday.

"It would have been better if they had confiscated her mobile instead of her passport".

Mr AlAraibi said Australian embassy officials in Bangkok had been visiting him once a week.

Saudi Arabia has been hammered with criticism since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul past year.

"He is obligated to do everything in his power to advocate, both privately and publicly, and to use the enormous leverage football has with the Bahrain Government ... also with the Thai Government to release Hakeem", he said.

Alqunun's case has highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia. It said her case had inspired millions and should remind people of the bravery and sacrifices of people who flee their native lands for safety.

Ms al-Qunun was detained in Thailand following her arrival in the country.

The Australian foreign minister's visit to Thailand will also involve talks on the release of Bahraini soccer player Hakeem al-Araibi, who has refugee status in Australia but is also held in Bangkok on an Interpol red notice issued on the request of the Bahraini regime.

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