Australian minister hints Saudi teen likely to get asylum

Australia to'consider Saudi woman's asylum plea

Australian minister hints Saudi teen likely to get asylum

The case of the 18-year-old Saudi woman who made a desperate call for asylum from an airport in Thailand may be fast tracked as her renunciation of Islam could put her in danger should she be returned home, according to activists.

The father of an 18-year-old Saudi woman asylum seeker who fled to Thailand saying she feared her family would kill her, has arrived in Bangkok and wants to meet his daughter, Thailand's immigration chief said on Tuesday.

She arrived in Bangkok on Saturday from Kuwait, saying she feared her family would kill her if she was forced to go home.

Halfway around the world, retweets by Saudi Twitter users were noticed by Egyptian-American activist Mona Eltahawy in Montreal who began translating and retweeting Ms Qunun's Arabic tweets at 4am Thailand time, even though she was initially unsure if the account was authentic.

"The girl has violated immigration and residency laws because she does not have a return ticket or a hotel reservation, and she does not have a tourism program", the statement read.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) country representative Giuseppe de Vincentiis arrived at the airport at about 5pm on Monday to meet Thai officials and Ms Qunun herself.

"Any application by Ms Alqunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded", a Home Affairs official told AFP news agency. "Please help me." Instead, she was reportedly "dragged onto a plane from Manila to Riyadh with her mouth taped shut and her arms and legs bound". However, in repeated statements, including one issued Tuesday, the Saudi Embassy in Thailand said it is only monitoring her situation.

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not asked for her extradition".

Although Canadian officials said diplomats routinely raise human rights issues with their Saudi counterparts, the Saudi government reacted strongly to the public appeal and retaliated by freezing new trade, recalling its students from Canada and cancelling flights between the two countries.

In her pleas online, the young woman specifically asked for asylum in the United States, the UK, Canada and Australia.

When an 18-year-old Saudi asylum seeker arrived in Bangkok she faced immediate deportation - but instead she is in the hands of the United Nations refugee agency, her social media savvy galvanising a global campaign that caught the Thai government flat-footed.

The Saudi teenager fleeing her family has been thrown a lifeline by the Australian Government, which indicated it was likely to grant her a humanitarian visa.

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.

"We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back (Qunun) against her will and are extending protection to her", he said.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Babar Baloch, said at its Geneva headquarters that it could take several days for the agency to look into Qunun's claims.

Alqunun said she was taken to a transit hotel room in the airport as Thai officials arranged for her to be deported.

So far, family members don't appear to have commented publicly on the allegations of abuse.

"If my family come, they will kill me", she said in a video archived on Twitter. She posted her passport details on Twitter to confirm her identity.

She had asserted her independence and renounced Islam but had been forced to pray, wear a hijab and was beaten by her brother. Hakparn ensured that they will "take care of her as best we can", and that "she is now under the sovereignty of Thailand; no-one and no embassy can force her to go anywhere".

A number of female activists who fought for the right to drive have been arrested and disappeared and the country has been condemned across the world over the gruesome murder late past year of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at its consulate in Turkey.

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