Australia studies Saudi woman's refugee bid

Australia studies Saudi woman's refugee bid

By Matt Coughlan

January 10, 2019

The future of a young Saudi woman who fears her family will kill her if she is deported rests with Australia as the government weighs up her plea for asylum.

The United Nations' High Commission for Refugees has referred the case of Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, to Australia for consideration.

After the UN deemed her a refugee, Australia confirmed it would examine her claim for protection while she remains in Bangkok.

"The Department of Home Affairs will consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals," a Home Affairs spokesperson said.

Ms Alqunun had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum before she was detained.

The teenager made a desperate plea for asylum after expressing fears her family would kill her if she were sent home, launching a social media campaign that has garnered worldwide attention.

She refused to meet her father and brother who have arrived in Bangkok, Thai immigration chief General Surachate Hakparn said.

"Rahaf's father met with the UNHCR representative to discuss the matter ... naturally the parents are worried about their children as this is a family matter," General Surachate told reporters.

General Surachate said the father denied physically abusing his daughter or trying to force her into an arranged marriage.

He said he wants his daughter back but respects her decision, General Surachate added, and described the man as being a governor in Saudi Arabia.

"He has 10 children. He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes," General Surachate said.

"But he didn't go into detail."

Before the UN referral to Australia, Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton had said there would be no "special treatment" in Ms Alqunun's case.

Health Minister Greg Hunt had said Australia would consider giving Ms Alqunun a humanitarian visa if the UNHCR found her to be a refugee.


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