Australia-bound Saudi teen in UNHCR's care

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong had sought further information from the government

Australia-bound Saudi teen in UNHCR's care

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong had sought further information from the government

January 8, 2019


(Translation appears in Arabic section)

Thai officials say a young Saudi woman who was holed up in a Bangkok hotel room seeking asylum in Australia will be allowed to stay in Thailand while her case is evaluated by the UN refugee agency.

Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun, 18, claims she was abducted on Sunday and Saudi Arabian diplomatic staff confiscated her passport on arrival at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport.

She subsequently appealed for help from Australia, Canada, the United States, Britain and other European nations.

"Please I need u all. I'm shouting out for help of humanity," she tweeted.

Ms Alqunun said she was being held at an airport hotel by diplomatic and airline staff despite having a visa to travel to Australia.

She wrote of being in "real danger" if forced to return to her family under pressure from Saudi authorities and has claimed she could be killed.

The teenager vowed to not leave her hotel room until she spoke with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

Late on Monday, she was allowed to enter Thailand temporarily under the protection of the UNHCR, which will take about five to seven days to study her claim for asylum, The Associated Press reported.

Photos released on Monday night by immigration police showed Ms Alqunun with Thai and UN officials after she left the airport transit hotel room where she had been holed up over the weekend, sending her pleas for help on her Twitter account.

She later tweeted she feels safe under UN protection and has gotten back her passport, which had been taken from her earlier, the AP said.

Labor's foreign affairs spokeswoman Penny Wong said she was concerned by the reports over the situation and had sought further information from the government.

"It is a very distressing position she is in," Senator Wong said.

Immigration Minister David Coleman declined to comment.

Ms Alqunun said she had been abused by her family and would be killed if she returned home. She posted her passport details on Twitter to confirm her identity.

Saudi Arabian authorities have denied their involvement, saying Thai officials stopped Ms Alqunun because she did not have a return ticket or itinerary to show she was a tourist.

"She will be deported to the state of Kuwait where her family live," the Saudi embassy said in a statement.

"The embassy does not have the authority to stop her at the airport or anywhere else."

Ms Alqunun told a Thai human rights worker her family kept her in her room for six months because she cut her hair.

She had asserted her independence and renounced Islam but had been forced to pray, wear a hijab and was beaten by her brother.

Ms Alqunun is understood to have fled from her family two days ago during a trip to Kuwait.- AFP


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