Australia says no timeframe to decide Saudi teen Rahafs case

Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun chats with Thai Immigration Police Chief Surachet Hakparn and an unidentified UNHCR officer at the Suvarnabhumi international airport

Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun chats with Thai Immigration Police Chief Surachet Hakparn and an unidentified UNHCR officer at the Suvarnabhumi international airport

As well as the Qunun case she is expected to discuss Hakeem al-Araibi, the Australian permanent resident who has been detained in Thailand for six weeks and fears deportation to Bahrain.

But she was barred from entering Thailand, and the Thai government threatened to deport her back to Kuwait, leading to her barricading herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room with a table and mattress.

Australia's foreign minister Thursday declined to say how long it will take to consider a United Nations request to resettle a young Saudi woman who fled her family, as the 18-year-old's plight sparked a topless protest in Sydney and debate among Saudis over their country's restrictive "guardianship" laws.

Earlier reports claimed al-Qunun's father had asked Saudi Arabia's embassy in Bangkok to help detain her but the embassy said later that Saudi Arabia had never demanded her deportation since the conflict is a family matter.

"Great news that Thailand has allowed the United Nations to assess Rahaf rather than sending her back to the country from which she was seeking asylum, "tweeted Radha Stirling, a human rights lawyer and CEO of advocacy group Detained in Dubai".

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne gestures as she answers a journalist's question in Bangkok, Thailand, Thursday, Jan. 10, 2019.

Ms Alqunun has refused to meet her father and brother who flew to Bangkok this week, and told SBS News she has no plans to do so before leaving Thailand.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne, on a scheduled visit to Bangkok to meet her Thai counterpart, told reporters Australia was "engaged in the steps of the assessment process of Miss Al-Qunun as required".

If she had made it to Australia, she would have been just one of the thousands of would-be refugees who turn up at Australian ports, airports, and borders who face lengthy waits, albeit in relative safety.

Activists have urged the Australian government to support Ms al-Qunun in her bid for asylum in Australia, and said the young woman should be issued with emergency travel documents.

On Thursday, protesters will gather in front of the Sydney Opera House to highlight the footballer's prolonged detention.

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Her father has denied physically abusing her or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, among the reasons she gave for her flight, Thailand's immigration police chief said after meeting him on Wednesday. Australia has said it will consider her case for asylum.

"Her father is relieved that she is safe", Gen Surachate said, adding that the "UNHCR will find a third country that will accept her in two days".

"This player, a Bahrain national, is now being detained in prison in Thailand awaiting the outcome of extradition proceedings to Bahrain, where he was previously convicted of a criminal offence, the validity of which he strongly contests", continued the statement.

"We are, as I've said, very concerned about his detention, very concerned about any potential for return of Mr.al-Araibi to Bahrain". Bahrain is seeking his extradition.

"I have reiterated those concerns to both ministers".

"Labor has been supportive of the government's moves to consider humanitarian settlement in Australia given she has been found to be owed protection", Wong said.

World football governing body FIFA says AlAraibi should be freed and allowed to return to Australia where he plays for Melbourne football club Pascoe Vale in the second tier of the Australian League.

But he wondered why the same treatment had not been afforded to al-Araibi.

"This situation should not have arisen, in particular, since Mr Al-Araibi now lives and works and plays as a professional footballer in Australia, where he has been accorded refugee status". He said he believed he was targeted for arrest because of his Shiite faith and because his brother was politically active.

"The Thai authorities did the right thing by a young Saudi woman in agreeing not to forcibly remove her and pledged to respect the rule of law", Human Rights Watch's Australia director Elaine Pearson said on Thursday.

Bahrain, which is a close ally of Britain and hosts the U.S. navy's Fifth Fleet, has been the scene of a low-level insurgency ever since a failed uprising inspired by 2011's Arab spring.

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