Australia Considers Visa for Saudi Teen As UN Grants Refugee Status

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The UN has said an 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family is a legitimate refugee and has asked Australia to resettle her as the Twitter-led campaign to grant her asylum edged towards resolution.

Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun will be subject to Australian checks before she is granted a humanitarian visa, including character and security assessments.

But Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun's father and brother would have to wait and see whether the United Nations refugee agency would allow them to see her, immigration chief Surachate Hakpan said.

The Australian government previously said it would carefully consider granting a visa to Qunun if she is found to be a refugee by the United Nations.

Alqunun's father, a Saudi government official, and brother arrived in Bangkok on the evening of January 8 and immediately demanded to see her.

A young Saudi woman is asking for Canada's help after tweets about her efforts to flee abuse and seek asylum overseas put her in the global spotlight.

After publicizing her case via social media, saying she feared for her safety if made to return home to her family, she was placed in the care of UNHCR workers as her bid for refugee status was considered, leading to her referral to Australia on Wednesday afternoon.

"We have no idea what he is going to do. whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her". "I have a ticket from Thailand to Melbourne, Australia", she told Asia Times via direct message.

Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's twitter account later quoted a Saudi diplomat in Bangkok saying it would have been better to take her phone than her passport. "They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong-they say that since I was a child".

"When she first arrived in Thailand, she opened a new site (account) and the followers reached about 45,000 within one day", a Saudi official speaking in Arabic through a translator told Thai officials in the video, referring to the Twitter account.

"It is very incredible that the Australian government have offered her an asylum, given that the Australian government is not well known for its well treatment of refugees", said McNeil, who spent hours with Alqunun in her hotel room at the airport in Bangkok.

Qunun said on Twitter that she was "scared" because her father arrived in Thailand yesterday, but that her passport had been returned to her. After one hour he came back with five or six people, I think they were police or something and then they told me my father is so angry and I must go back to Saudi Arabia.

But Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakpan said the men would have to wait to learn whether the UN's refugee agency would allow the request.

Alqunun alleged several times that Saudi officials were involved in seizing her passport.

In a separate statement to Australia's The New Daily, the government said it is making a representation to the Thai government and UNHCR's office in Bangkok to assess Alqunun's claim "expeditiously".

It also said the embassy had made contact with her father, a senior regional government official in the kingdom, "to inform him on her situation". Saudi activists say the kingdom, through its embassies overseas, has at times put pressure on border patrol agents in foreign countries to deport the women back to Saudi Arabia. "We don't know whether he is going to try to get the embassy to do that", Robertson said.

In 2017, a young Saudi woman Dina Ali Lasloom was forcibly returned to her homeland after she was detained at Manila airport in the Philippines, and has since reportedly disappeared.

Rahaf's posts immediately caused outcry on social media and attracted a flurry of responses.

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