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Monday, 21 October 2019

UN refers Saudi teen to Australia for refugee resettlement

Reuters , Wednesday 9 Jan 2019
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun
Saudi teen Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is seen with Thai immigration authorities at a hotel inside Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand on January 7, 2019 (Photo: Reuters)
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The United Nations has asked Australia to consider refugee resettlement for an 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled to Thailand saying she feared her family would kill her, the Australian government said on Wednesday.

The teenager, Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, arrived in Bangkok on the weekend appealing for asylum.

Australia said it would consider resettling her if the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) deemed her a refugee.

“The UNHCR has referred Ms Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement,” Australia’s Department of Homeland Security said in an email.

The department said it would consider the referral “in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals”. It declined to comment further.

The UNHCR office in Thailand also declined to comment.

Qunun arrived in Bangkok on Saturday and was initially denied entry.

She soon started posting messages on Twitter from the transit area of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had “escaped Kuwait” and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

Within hours, a campaign sprung up on Twitter, spread by a loose network of activists around the world.

Within 36 hours it prompted Thailand’s government to reverse a decision to force the young woman onto a plane that would return her to her family.

She was allowed to enter Thailand and on Tuesday began the process of seeking asylum in a third country through the UN refugee agency.

*This story has been edited by Ahram Online

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