Canada grants asylum to Saudi woman

Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun shakes hands with Thai Immigration Police Chief Surachet Hakparn

Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun shakes hands with Thai Immigration Police Chief Surachet Hakparn

Standing with Alqunun by her side at Toronto's airport Saturday, Freeland said: "This a very courageous new Canadian".

Ms Qunun arrived in Bangkok a week ago and was initially denied entry.

"Canada has granted her asylum", Surachate Hakpark told Reuters.

"The unique thing about this case is that she had access to social media, and was able to report on it and bring the world's attention to her plight", said Pearson.

Thailand is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention but sometimes allows the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) to take responsibility for "persons of concern", aimed at resettling them in third countries, says Human Rights First.

Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland says the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found that a Saudi woman fleeing alleged family abuse was in a unsafe situation and that Canada was glad to be able to act quickly and offer her refuge.

Her father and other family members told Saudi authorities she was mentally ill in a bid to have her returned, she added.

But al-Qunun's savvy use of Twitter throughout her ordeal at Bangkok airport, including tweeting videos of her barricading herself in a hotel room, galvanised a global campaign and calls for her to be granted asylum.

The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees welcomed Canada's decision.

As was the case with the ministry statement, al-Shuaibi's remarks didn't address her explanation of lacking a return ticket or tourist program because she meant to travel on to Australia.

Thailand initially said it would deport her at the request of Saudi embassy officials, barring her from travelling on to Australia where Ms Qunun said she had meant to claim asylum.

The Australia government has been savaged on social media over its perceived inaction.

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"If, for any reason, it doesn't work out with Australia, then UNHCR would say okay, we will take the file back and refer it to another country".

The Saudi Foreign Ministry denied orchestrating her detention at Bangkok airport or seizing her passport.

"I'm 100 per cent sure they will KILL me", she told Global News in a Twitter message, saying her family had threatened her after she renounced Islam.

"We have always said we have got to follow due process".

Her case highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia, where several women fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years and returned home.

She had been on her way to Australia and the Australian government had been assessing an application that was being processed at the time Canada granted her asylum.

Qunun had thanked the Thai authorities for their help before leaving and had been given a health check, Hakparn said.

The Associated Press reported last October that Saudi Arabia was paying lobbyists, lawyers and public relations experts almost $6 million (€5.2 million) a year following the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggiin Istanbul, later admitted as murder.

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Qunun expressed a wish to be granted asylum in Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom or the United States. He said Alqunun's father wanted his daughter back but respected her decision.

The UNHCR has welcomed Canada's decision to offer worldwide protection to Ms Qunun.

It noted that Hakeem al-Araibi, a refugee and "torture survivor" from Bahrain granted residence in Australia, has been detained by Thailand since November awaiting a hearing on a Bahraini extradition request.

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