Saturday, January 19, 2019 | ePaper

UN says Saudi teen is refugee, asks Australia to resettle

  • Print


Ms Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun arrived at Bangkok's main airport over the weekend after running away from her family who she alleges subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.



The United Nations has found that a teenager who fled Saudi Arabia to Thailand is a legitimate refugee and has asked Australia to take her in, officials in Canberra said Wednesday (Jan 9).
"The UNHCR has referred Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement," the Department of Home Affairs said in a statement.
The decision marks a significant victory for the 18-year-old, who is currently in Bangkok where she says Thai authorities attempted to block her from travelling to Australia to claim asylum. The home affairs department said it will "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".
Australian officials have strongly hinted that Qunun's request will be accepted.  "If she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa," health minister Greg Hunt had said before the UN determination was public.
The young woman has said she was fleeing from Saudi Arabia to Australia but was stopped en route by Thai and Saudi officials.
Her plight shot to public attention when she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to avoid deportation and shared dozens of fearful but defiant messages online insisting on her right to asylum.
Thai authorities initially said Qunun would be sent back, but they abruptly changed course as the story pinballed across social media. Saudi Arabia has some of the world's toughest restrictions on women, including a guardianship system that allows male family members to make decisions on behalf of female relatives.
The kingdom's human rights record has been under heavy scrutiny since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's embassy in Istanbul last year.
Even Australia's hardline home affairs minister, a former policeman and staunch supporter of anti-immigration policies, expressed sympathy. "There is no special treatment in this case," Peter Dutton said Wednesday.
But, he added, "nobody wants to see a young girl in distress and she has obviously now found a safe haven in Thailand".
In Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch had told reporters the process looking into Qunun's asylum claim had started and could take several days.
Thailand is not a signatory to a UN convention on refugees, and asylum seekers are typically deported or wait years to be resettled in third countries.
The UNHCR insists anyone with an asylum claim should not be sent back to the country.

More News For this Category

Human diet causing ‘catastrophic’ damage to planet: Study

Human diet causing ‘catastrophic’ damage to planet: Study

AFP, Paris :The way humanity produces and eats food must radically change to avoid millions of deaths and "catastrophic" damage to the planet, according to a landmark study published

Top judge sworn in as Pakistan's SC Chief Justice, pledges reform

Top judge sworn in as Pakistan's SC Chief Justice, pledges reform

AP, Islamabad  : A top Pakistani judge has been sworn in as the country's new chief justice of the Supreme Court at a ceremony attended by President Arif Alvi, Prime

Modi's pre-election handouts to cost India billions, breach fiscal targets

Modi's pre-election handouts to cost India billions, breach fiscal targets

Reuters, New Delhi :A series of vote-catching measures planned by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi as he braces for a difficult general election may cost more than 1 trillion

Rigging polls was at the direction of  Trump, says ex-Lawyer

Rigging polls was at the direction of Trump, says ex-Lawyer

Reuters,  Washington :Michael Cohen, US President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, said on Thursday he paid a firm to manipulate online polling data "at the direction of and for

News In Brief

Vietnam 'willing' to host Trump-Kim summitAFP, Hanoi Vietnam's premier has said his country is willing to host a much-anticipated second summit between US President Donald Trump and North Korean

US 'jihadist' sought to attack White House: FBI

US 'jihadist' sought to attack White House: FBI

AFP, Washington :Authorities in the US state of Georgia have arrested a 21-year-old man who sought to buy explosives and an anti-tank rocket for a "jihad" suicide attack on

Taiwan holds live-fire exercises following China threats

Taiwan holds live-fire exercises following China threats

AP, Hsinchu :Taiwan held live-fire exercises along its east coast Thursday amid renewed threats from China to bring the island under its control by force if deemed necessary.Artillery and assault

'Stupid' to suggest Trump a Russian agent: Putin's top aide

'Stupid' to suggest Trump a Russian agent: Putin's top aide

AFP, Moscow :A top Kremlin aide on Wednesday dismissed as ridiculous claims that US President Donald Trump has acted as an agent for Russia amid mounting controversy over his alleged

Vietnam prepares for Kim Jong Un visit amid talks of second summit with Trump

Vietnam prepares for Kim Jong Un visit amid talks of second summit with Trump

Reuters, Hanoi  :Hanoi is preparing to receive North Korean leader Kim Jong Un for a state visit, two sources told Reuters, while officials and diplomats said Vietnam is keen to

Sudan protests rumble on as Bashir remains defiant

Sudan protests rumble on as Bashir remains defiant

AFP, Khartoum :One month after protests erupted across Sudan against rising bread prices, anti-government demonstrations have turned into daily rallies against a defiant President Omar al-Bashir who has rejected calls