Saudi teen flying to Canada, Justin Trudeau says ‘pleased’ to offer asylum

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun was stopped last Saturday at a Bangkok airport by immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport.
Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is seen before departing from Thailand at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand on January 11.(REUTERS)
Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is seen before departing from Thailand at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand on January 11.(REUTERS)
Updated on Jan 12, 2019 07:32 AM IST
Copy Link
Bangkok | ByAgencies

A Saudi asylum seeker who fled alleged abuse by her family is leaving Bangkok on Friday and will fly to Canada, Thailand’s immigration police chief said.

Police Chief Surachate Hakparn said the 18-year-old woman, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, would leave late Friday evening. He gave no other details.

He earlier said several countries including Canada and Australia were in talks with the UN refugee agency on accepting Alqunun.

A spokesman for Canada’s foreign minister said he could not confirm she was coming to Canada.

Alqunun’s case has highlighted the cause of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home. Human rights activists say many similar cases have gone unreported.

Alqunun was stopped last Saturday at a Bangkok airport by immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport.

She barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and launched a social media campaign that drew global attention to her case. It garnered enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of UN officials, who granted her refugee status on Wednesday.

If Canada is taking Alqunun, it could further upset Saudi-Canada relations. In August, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador to the kingdom and withdrew its own ambassador after Canada’s foreign ministry tweeted support for the arrests of women’s right activists. The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and ordered their citizens studying in Canada to leave.

Alqunun had previously said on Twitter that she wished to seek refuge in Australia.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with senior Thai officials in Bangkok on Thursday. She later told reporters that Australia was assessing Alqunun’s request for resettlement.

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.

He was arrested while on holiday in Thailand last November due to an Interpol notice in which Bahrain sought his custody after he was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalizing a police station — a charge he denies. Bahrain is seeking his extradition.

Al-Araibi’s case is being considered by Thailand’s justice system, she said.

Canada ‘pleased’ to offer asylum: Trudeau

The Saudi teen has been accepted as a refugee by Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Friday.

“Canada has been unequivocal that we’ll stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world,” Trudeau said. “When the United Nations made a request of us that we grant miss (Rahaf Mohammed) al-Qunun’s asylum, we accepted.”

SHARE THIS ARTICLE ON
Close Story
QUICKREADS

Less time to read?

Try Quickreads

  • Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. 

    Australia PM Scott Morrison bats away mounting Covid worries

    Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison batted away Covid-19 worries three days ahead of federal elections, claiming many reported deaths are not caused by the virus and vowing not to interfere in people's lives. Australia detected 66 Covid-related deaths and more than 53,000 infections in the previous 24 hours -- far more than six months ago when daily numbers generally showed fewer than 20 deaths and 2,000 infections.

  • NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg and Sweden's Ambassador to NATO Axel Wernhoff shake hands during a ceremony to mark Sweden's and Finland's application for membership in Brussels, on May 18, 2022. 

    Ukraine war: Finland, Sweden submit NATO membership application

    NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Wednesday that Finland, Sweden have officially applied to join the world's biggest military alliance, a move driven by security concerns over Russia's war in Ukraine. The application must now be weighed by the 30 member countries. Stoltenberg said that NATO allies “are determined to work through all issues and reach rapid conclusions.” Finland and Sweden cooperate closely with NATO. NATO's membership process is not formalized, and the steps can vary.

  • The package under consideration would include foreign military financing of as much as $500 million dollars.

    US to offer India $500 mn in military aid to reduce Russia dependence: Report

    The US is preparing a military aid package for India to deepen security ties and reduce the country's dependence on Russian weapons, people familiar with the matter said. The effort is part of a much larger initiative by President Joe Biden's administration to court India as a long-term security partner, despite its reluctance to criticize Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, according to a senior US official who asked not to be named.

  • Majority of those in the family-sponsored Green Card waiting list are siblings of US citizens.

    US panel boost for Green Card applicants: Here's what you should do in meantime

    Recommendations of a presidential advisory commission on the processing time of green card applications can bring cheers to hundreds of thousands of immigrants if approved by the White House. A Green Card is issued to immigrants as evidence that the bearer has been granted the privilege of residing permanently in the US. In 2021, only 65,452 family preference green cards were issued out of the annual 226,000 available green cards, keeping many families needlessly separated.

  • Jamaican commerce minister Aubyn Hill's comments over wheat imports come as India on May 14 temporarily suspended wheat exports in an apparent bid to curb the local price surge.

    Talks for importing wheat, fertilizers from ‘friend’ India ongoing: Jamaica

    Jamaica's commerce minister Aubyn Hill said that the talks for importing wheat from India are ongoing. A day later, commerce secretary B.V.R. Subrahmanyam said that the Modi government would keep a window open to export wheat to needy countries, a report by news agency Reuters said. President Ram Nath Kovind's arrived in Jamaica on May 15, the first visit by any Indian president to the Caribbean country.

SHARE
Story Saved
×
Saved Articles
Following
My Reads
Sign out
New Delhi 0C
Wednesday, May 18, 2022