World

Australia says no timeframe to decide Saudi teen Rahafs case

Australia says no timeframe to decide Saudi teen Rahafs case

Alqunun, from Hail in northwestern Saudi Arabia, said she feared she may have been killed if she was forced to return to her family.

Raif Badawi's wife Ensaf Haidar also praised Canada, calling Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland on Twitter "the real hero" behind efforts to prevent Qunun's repatriation to Saudi Arabia.

The Canada-Saudi Arabia relations have soured after a diplomatic row which was sparked by the Canadian government's call for the immediate release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his sister Samar via Twitter on August 5, 2018. "When the United Nations made a request of us that we grant al-Qunun's asylum, we accepted".

Saudi Arabia's human rights record has come under heavy scrutiny since the brutal murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi past year at its consulate in Turkey.

"Canada has granted her asylum", Surachate told Reuters.

The woman - in a widely followed social media campaign - had said she had "escaped Kuwait" and her life would have been in danger if Thailand had deported her back to Saudi Arabia.

Dutton's comments, coupled with the arrival of Alqunun's father and brother in Bangkok, heightened the urgency to find a safe haven for her, Phil Robertson, the deputy director of Human Rights Watch's Asia division, said in an interview from Bangkok.

Rahaf said she was pleading for protection not only from Australia but also from Canada, the US or the United Kingdom, if they were willing to take her.

Alqunun had been on vacation with her family in Kuwait earlier this month when she ran away and took a flight to Bangkok, NPR reports.

Federal officials had signaled earlier in the week that Canada would be open to taking in the teenager, after she had asked Canada for help, via her Twitter account.




"Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world", he said.

On Friday afternoon she posted a final cryptic tweet on her profile saying "I have some good news and some bad news" - shortly after her account was deactivated.

Alqunun had previously said on Twitter that she wishes to seek refuge in Australia.

Freeland, however, heaped praise on the young woman who shot to fame through her social media campaign to flee her family. Before that, Canada and Saudi Arabia were engaged in a diplomatic spat over a federal government tweet criticizing a Saudi civil rights crackdown, prompting the kingdom to expel Canada's ambassador and ordering their citizens studying in Canada to leave.

"Al-Qunun's plight has captured the world's attention over the past few days, providing a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide", said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees granted her refugee status on Wednesday.

Marise Payne, the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, said on Thursday she raised her concerns over his continued detention with the Thai authorities during her trip to the country.

Experts agree the media focus on al-Qunun's case has put pressure on officials in Thailand - which usually have little sympathy for asylum seekers - to act quickly. Her friends said she had suffered abuse at their hands.

"She's just been receiving a lot of death threats", McNeill wrote, adding that Alqunun would be back on Twitter after a "short break".