January 22, 2019 1:03 pm
Updated: January 23, 2019 5:30 am

No answers from Hussen on whether Liberals will help pay cost of protecting Rahaf Mohammed

Minister Ahmed Hussen would not respond to questions about how Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed was processed so quickly to arrive in Canada and who is paying for her security.


Immigration Minister Ahmed Hussen is refusing to say whether the Liberals will help pay for the cost of protecting Saudi teen refugee Rahaf Mohammed.

But a source with knowledge of the matter told Global News the government intends to do so though is having trouble finding a way under the policies on which resettlement costs qualify for coverage.

READ MORE: Saudi teen refugee Rahaf Mohammed is dropping her family name. Here’s how she’s starting her new life in Canada

In a press conference with reporters on Tuesday, Hussen was asked several times whether the government will pay for the private security firm hired by Toronto’s Costi Immigrant Services, which is handling Mohammed’s resettlement to life in Canada since her arrival on Jan. 12.

Mario Calla, executive director of Costi, said last week the company will pay for the costs if the federal government does not.

But the question remains of whether the federal government should contribute to the cost of protecting the young woman, who has repeatedly faced death threats since she fled her family and flew to Thailand early this month, galvanizing international support on Twitter for her bid to make an asylum claim.

She is not being left alone at any time because of the threats.

“I don’t want to discuss those particular details. I’m happy to just say that we’re proud of our response,” Hussen said.

WATCH BELOW: Saudi teen delivers public statement after arrival in Canada

“As Ms. Rahaf starts her journey of settling into Canada and establishing her life here, we wish her the best and we know she will access our settlement services.”

When pressed again, Hussen again refused to answer.

“I don’t want to get into that. As you know we have to be careful.”

Discussions on possible ways to cover those costs are ongoing but it is not clear what potential avenues are being explored.

WATCH BELOW: Private security hired to protect Saudi teen claiming asylum

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On Jan. 5, 18-year-old Mohammed fled her family while visiting Kuwait and flew to Thailand.

There, she barricaded herself in a hotel room and took to Twitter to ask for support saying Thai officials were refusing to process her request to make an asylum claim. Her tweets alleging abuse and the threat of forced marriage prompted a swell of international support.

The UNHCR began evaluating her bid for asylum and despite reports Australia was willing to consider her claim, Canada also said it would be willing to accept her and on Jan. 11, she boarded her flight to Canada.

Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland greeted Mohammed at the airport, prompting accusations of a “tacky and exploitive” politicization of the asylum process.

COMMENTARY: Saudi Arabian teen exploited by Trudeau Liberals

That accusation was exacerbated amid uncertainty about how Mohammed’s refugee claim was processed so quickly.

On Tuesday, Hussen clarified exactly how that happened and said her claim was handled through what is known as the Urgent Protection Program.

“Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said when asked if the publicity surrounding her case led to faster processing.

“She happened to have a little bit of publicity to her case but we have a program within our refugee response system that responds to urgent requests for protection. It’s called the Urgent Protection Program and it responds to a few hundred requests per year. It’s not based on publicity, it’s based on referrals.”

According to the UNHCR, cases being considered for urgent processing are sent directly from sub-offices of the world refugee agency to branches of IRCC in the country where the individual requesting asylum is located, with all requests directly copying the IRCC headquarters in Ottawa for speedy handling.

The IRCC will then inform UNHCR within 24 hours whether they are able to accept the individual.

The goal is to then have the case processed and the individual depart for Canada within one week.

WATCH: Minister Ahmed Hussen announces $18.4 million for pre-arrival immigrant settlement services

© 2019 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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