UNHCR finds Australia-bound Saudi teen to be refugee

Teen Locks Herself in Room After Fleeing Allegedly Abusive Family

The United Nations has ruled the Saudi teenager who fled her home country over fears she'd be killed for renouncing Islam is a refugee. Qunun, a daughter of a senior regional government official, also revealed that Saudi and Kuwaiti officials confiscated her passport upon her arrival. She began by boarding a plane by herself to Thailand, but the plan quickly spiraled out of control.

However, Thai immigration police at the airport revealed that she had no air ticket to Australia. "Whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her".

The UNHCR was granted access to Qanun "in order to assess her need for worldwide refugee protection", and is expected to reach a decision by next week.

"The UNHCR has referred Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement", Australia's Department of Home Affairs said in an emailed statement.

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

A UNHCR representative told AFP "the process is still ongoing".

In an earlier and separate explanation released on Twitter, the embassy also denied sending officials to Suvarnabhumi airport to meet Qunun as she arrived or impounding her passport - as she alleged.

"When she arrived, she opened a new (Twitter) account and her followers grew to 45,000 in one day", he said in Arabic. It declined to comment further.

The kingdom's diplomats met with Thai immigration officials on Tuesday.

Al-Qunun herself tweeted on Monday that she was hoping for asylum in Canada, the U.S., Britain or Australia, and then on Tuesday morning she tweeted again, focusing her interest in Canada in particular.

For runaway Saudi women, fleeing can be a matter of life and death, and they are nearly always trying to escape male relatives.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said the move by Ms Alqunun's father was concerning.

"When it became clear that she wasn't going to leave, I decided it was important to stay and have someone documenting what was going on", Ms McNeill said.

While there has been a groundswell of support for Qunun to be granted refugee status and resettled in Australia, Peter Dutton, a hardliner in Australia's conservative government, said: "There is no special circumstance for anybody in this situation".

She is required to obtain their approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study overseas on a government scholarship, get married, leave prison, or even exit a shelter for abuse victims.

"It would have been better if they confiscated her cell phone instead of her passport because Twitter changed everything". "And I knew once she said that, she is in serious trouble", Mr Robertson told Reuters.

Global pressure has mounted on Thai authorities to keep Alqunun safe and to ensure she isn't forcibly returned to the Saudi kingdom, which has been subject to worldwide condemnation over the killing of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey. Because in 2017, another Saudi Arabian woman, Dina Ali Lasloom, also tried to flee to Australia.

The Australian government said it was monitoring the case closely.

"I am giving my family 48 hours (to) either stop or I will publish everything that will incriminate them", she threatened on Twitter.

Saudi Arabia's charge d'affaires in Bangkok, Abdalelah al-Sheaibi, was stone-faced as he discussed his government's displeasure with the limelight in a meeting with Thai officials.

"Please I need u all". She was reportedly taken to a detention center in the Saudi capital and little more regarding her location or condition is known.

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