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UNHCR examining Saudi woman’s asylum bid as family due in Bangkok

UNHCR examining Saudi woman’s asylum bid as family due in Bangkok

Lawmakers and activists in Australia and Britain urged their governments to grant asylum to Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who was finally allowed by Thailand to enter the country late on Monday, after almost 48 hours stranded at Bangkok airport under threat of being expelled. "My life is in danger".

Saudi Arabia's embassy in Thailand denied reports that Riyadh requested the extradition of Alqanun. "We will protect her". "We will not send someone back to die", said the Thai immigration chief, Major General Surachate Hakparn, according to the New York Times.

Rahaf was vacationing in Kuwait with her family when she planned her escape with the help of a friend, allegedly to escape mental and physical abuse they put her through, MailOnline reported. "I know them. They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong - they say that since I was a child", she said. Under these laws, a woman must have her male guardian's permission in order to obtain a passport, travel overseas or marry.

"Thailand is a land of smiles".

"Any application by Al-Qunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded, " the official said.

"Foreign governments, including Australia, that are concerned about human rights should be doubling down and offering support", she said, adding that the response for the federal government and opposition had been disappointing so far.

In addition to facing punishment for "moral" crimes, women can also become the target of "honour killings" at the hands of their families, activists say. Immigration chief Surachate defended stopping her and argued that otherwise many people would use the same excuse to stay in Thailand.

The Saudi teenager said she was certain she would be jailed if she were sent back to Saudi Arabia.

Rahaf was holed up inside a hotel room at the airport, Monday, to avoid being deported on a Kuwait Airways plane scheduled for Monday morning.




In Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters the process looking into Qunun's asylum claim had started and could take several days.

"My family is strict and locked me in a room for six months just for cutting my hair", Alqunun said.

She was on her way to Australia, where she meant to seek asylum after receiving alleged death threats from her family.

According to Surachate, Alqunun's father was due to arrive in Bangkok on Monday night, and officials would then see if the young woman was willing to depart with him.

Saudi Arabia's charge d'affaires in Bangkok, Abdullah al-Shuaibi, was quoted in Saudi media as saying that Alqunun was stopped by Thai authorities because she did not appear to have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist.

Human Rights Watch's Phil Robertson, in contact with Qunun since she started live-tweeting her ordeal, said her father and brother were "the two male relatives (Qunun) most fears" and could "physically harm her in an effort to compel her to return".

"She has a valid Australian visa", he said.

She said she believed she was stopped after her family appealed to Kuwait Airways.

"She's desperately fearful of her family, including her father who is a senior government official, and given Saudi Arabia's long track record of looking the other way in so-called honor violence incidents, her worry that she could be killed if returned cannot be discounted". "Thai authorities should immediately halt any deportation, and either allow her to continue her travel to Australia or permit her to remain in Thailand to seek protection as a refugee". Talking to MailOnline, Rahaf described her fear of being murdered if she was returned to her male family members.

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