Saudi teen in Thailand given UN refugee status after claims of family threats

Saudi teen in Thailand given UN refugee status after claims of family threats

Breaking News

The United Nations granted refugee status to a Saudi woman on Wednesday who was publicly pleading for help in Thailand.

Eighteen-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun started calling for support on Monday via Twitter. She said Thai authorities took her passport as she was trying to fly to Australia, where she planned to apply for asylum. She claimed her family abused her.

“Please help,” al-Qunun posted on Twitter, “I am in Bangkok about to be forced on a flight back to Saudi where my life is in danger.”

Al-Qunun barricaded herself in her hotel room in the Bangkok airport after authorities tried to remove her from her room. She said they were attempting to force her to board a flight to Kuwait, where she had flown to Thailand from.

PHOTO: In this Jan. 7, 2019, photo released, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun views her mobile phone as she sits barricaded in a hotel room at an international airport in Bangkok.Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun/Human Rights Watch via AP
In this Jan. 7, 2019, photo released, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun views her mobile phone as she sits barricaded in a hotel room at an international airport in Bangkok.

(MORE: Turkey issues arrest warrants for 2 Saudi aides over journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s killing)

She uploaded videos to Twitter of her interactions with Thai authorities and pleas for help, writing, “I want UN!” and “I want UNHCR.”

Hours later, Melissa Fleming, chief communications spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) wrote on Twitter that Thai authorities granted the agency access to al-Qunun.

“UNHCR has been following developments closely and immediately sough access from the Thai authorities to meet with Ms. Mohammed Al-qunun, 18, to assess her need for international protection,” the agency said in a statement.

PHOTO: In this Jan. 7, 2019, file photo released by the Immigration Bureau, Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, foreground, walks by Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right, before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.Immigration police via AP, FILE
In this Jan. 7, 2019, file photo released by the Immigration Bureau, Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, foreground, walks by Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, right, before leaving the Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok.

(MORE: 18 Saudi citizens detained in connection with murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi: Report)

Thailand’s immigration police said they would not deport al-Qunun, adding, “Thailand is a land of smiles. We will not send anyone to die. We will not do that. We will adhere to human rights under the rule of law,” according to the Associated Press.

On Tuesday, Thailand Immigration Police chief Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn said al-Qunun’s father arrived in Bangkok but did not meet with her after she refused to see him, according to the Associated Press.

On Wednesday, the UNHCR officially gave her refugee status after reviewing her case. Thai officials then agreed to let al-Qunun leave the airport with UNHCR officials.

The UNHCR has now referred al-Qunun’s case to Australia, requesting she be considered for refugee resettlement, the Department of Home Affairs in Australia said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. She is now waiting to be granted asylum.

On Wednesday, 48 hours after her ordeal began, al-Qunun posted a photo of herself on Twitter. “Hey.. I’m happy,” she wrote.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *