Thursday, 21 March, 2019

Thai authorities will not deport Saudi teen seeking asylum in Australia

A Saudi woman was stopped by Saudi and Kuwaiti officials when she landed in Bangkok's airport and her travel document was forcibly taken from her Saudi woman is trapped at Bangkok airport after trying to flee family amid fears they would kill her
Leonard Rios | 09 January, 2019, 11:30

In an earlier and separate explanation released on Twitter, the embassy also denied sending officials to Suvarnabhumi airport to meet Qunun as she arrived or impounding her passport - as she alleged.

UNHCR has been following developments closely and immediately sought access from the Thai authorities to meet with Ms. Mohammed Al-qunun, 18, to assess her need for global protection. The men reportedly told Alqunun that her family had filed a missing person report about her and informed her that she had to return to Kuwait on a flight late Monday morning.

Thai officials have announced they will not send a young Saudi woman who is seeking asylum in Australia back to Saudi Arabia.

On Monday, Human Rights Watch (HRW), a rights watchdog, urged Thai authorities to halt plans to deport the woman.

Qunun had posted a video on Twitter of her barricading her hotel room door with furniture. "My father just arrived as I heard witch [sic] anxious and scared me a lot and I want to go to another country that I seek asylum in".

Thailand's Immigration Police Chief, Surachet Hakpal, has also confirmed al-Qunun is safe from deportation. The flight departed at 11:39 a.m., according to Flightradar24.

"Given Saudi Arabia's long track record of looking the other way in so-called honor violence incidents, her worry that she could be killed if returned cannot be ignored", Robertson told AFP. She said she was once locked in a room for six months because she had cut her hair in a way that her family did not approve of. In an update on twitter, Qunun said she was under the protection of UNHCR and got her passport back. He said her father and brother were due in Thailand on Tuesday.

Police officials and staff at the Bangkok airport hotel where the woman was staying said she had already left her room there, though her exact destination was not made public.

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"We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back Ms al-Qunun against her will and are extending protection to her", he said. "Thai immigration had to deny her entry", he said, describing such action as standard procedure.

In her initial social media pleas, the Saudi teen said her family was powerful in Saudi society but she did not identify them.

"In order to enter our country, she must comply with our regulations ..."

It also shows the limits of reforms being pushed by Saudi Arabia's powerful Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman as he struggles to fix damage to his reputation after the grisly killing three months ago of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in Istanbul.

"In the event when we suspect that someone might be illegally detained, we request for the court to call the relevant authorities (in) for questioning", said Ms Bergman.

Human Rights Watch's Australian director Elaine Pearson says since Australia has expressed concern in the past about women's rights in Saudi Arabia, it should "come forward and offer protection for this young woman".

She said she had recently rejected Islam and was afraid she might be killed for that, according to Thai authorities. She said she had planned to spend a few days in Thailand so she would not spark suspicion when she left Kuwait.

It denied allegations that her passport had been seized.

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