January 11, 2019 9:14 am
Updated: January 11, 2019 9:24 am

Canada among countries willing to accept Saudi teen fleeing from family: Thai officials

ABOVE: UN refers Saudi teen seeking asylum to Australia.

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Several countries including Canada and Australia are in talks with the UN refugee agency to accept a Saudi asylum seeker who fled alleged abuse from her family, Thai police said Friday.

Thailand’s immigration police chief, Surachate Hakparn, told reporters the UN was accelerating the case, though he gave no indication of when the process would be complete.

READ MORE: Saudi teen seeking asylum deletes Twitter account after death threats, friend says


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Rahaf al-Qunun was stopped at a Bangkok airport on Saturday by Thai immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport.

While barricading herself in an airport hotel room, the 18-year-old launched a social media campaign via her Twitter account that drew global attention to her case. It garnered enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of UN officials.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees eventually granted her refugee status on Wednesday.

Qunun’s case has highlighted the cause of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home. Human rights activists say many similar cases have gone unreported.

WATCH: Thailand, UNHCR confer on Saudi teen barricaded in Thai hotel

By Friday, Qunun had closed down her Twitter account. Sophie McNeill, a reporter with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who has had exclusive access to Qunun, said Friday in a Twitter posting that Qunun “is safe and fine.”

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

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

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with senior Thai officials in Bangkok on Thursday. She later told reporters that Australia assessing Qunun’s request for resettlement, but there was no specific timeframe.

READ MORE: Canada played ‘critical’ role in urging Thailand to protect Saudi woman: Human Rights Watch

Payne said she also raised Australia’s concerns with Thai officials about Hakeem Al-araibi, a 25-year-old former member of Bahrain’s national soccer team, who was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017 after fleeing his homeland, where he said he was persecuted and tortured.

Hakeem’s case is being considered by Thailand’s justice system, she said.

© 2019 The Canadian Press

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