Published: Sun, January 13, 2019
Global | By Craig Ferguson

Saudi teen asylum seeker arrives in Canada to official welcome

Saudi teen asylum seeker arrives in Canada to official welcome

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, the 18-year-old woman who captured worldwide attention after escaping from her family and barricading herself in a hotel room in Thailand, was granted asylum by Canada on Friday.

Australia has dropped the strongest hints so far, after the United Nations urged the country to accept her, but its foreign minister said this week that it was still assessing the request.

But last night, Thailand's immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn said a smiling and cheerful Rahaf was bound for Toronto and had left on a flight.

Previously, several countries including Canada and Australia were in talks with the United Nations refugee agency in Bangkok on accepting Qunun. ". she wanted Canadians to see that she's here, that she's well, and that she's very, very happy to be in her new home, although she did comment to me about the cold". "I'm now in real danger because the Saudi Embassy is trying to force me to return", said an English translation of one of her first posts to Twitter.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said he was pleased to welcome Ms Qunun.

Trudeau said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had asked Canada to take in Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who grabbed global attention this week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family, which denies any abuse.

Qunun's attempt to flee the ultra-conservative kingdom was embraced by rights groups as a beacon of defiance against repression.

Officials had heavily hinted that the teenager was bound for Australia where she had originally meant to seek asylum. ABC News reporter Sophie McNeill, who had been in contact with Alqunun, said that she was fine but apparently suspended her account after receiving death threats. After a brief appearance, she was taken back into the airport terminal.

Ms Qunun took a Korean Air flight from Bangkok to Seoul on Friday and then a connecting flight to Toronto.

That relationship went sideways last August over Ottawa's rights criticism of Saudi Arabia, prompting Riyadh to expel the Canadian ambassador and sever all trade and investment ties in protest.

In the interview Ms al-Qunun responded to claims she had manipulated social media to be granted asylum. "She still refuses to meet with her father and brother, and they are going to be travelling back tonight as well".

Although her asylum case moved fast the final manoeuvres that led to her flight to Canada remain a mystery.

Australian media reported that UNHCR had withdrawn its referral for Alqunon to be resettled in Australia because Canberra was taking too long to decide on her asylum.

"She chose Canada. It's her personal decision", General Surachate told The Associated Press.

On Friday, Trudeau avoided answering a question about what the case would mean for relations with the kingdom, but he said Canada will always unequivocally stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world.

Like this: