Trudeau confirms Saudi asylum seeker coming to Canada

Trudeau confirms Saudi asylum seeker coming to Canada

The 18-year-old, who claimed to be fleeing abuse from her family, boarded a Korean Air flight from Bangkok to Seoul before taking a connecting flight to Canada.

"She will fly at 11:15 pm tonight (1615 GMT)", Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told AFP.

UNHCR's office in Canada did not immediately respond to MEE's request for comment on Friday.

The Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, confirmed Qunun was granted asylum following a request from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

But armed with a phone, she barricaded herself into an airside hotel room and fought back - live-tweeting her fears of deportation in a campaign that swiftly galvanised worldwide support and prompted a sharp U-turn by Thai officials.

But armed with a smartphone and hastily opened Twitter account, she forced a U-turn from Thai immigration police who handed her into the care of the UN's refugee agency as the #SaveRahaf hashtag bounced across the world.

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

The Australian director of Human Rights Watch, Elaine Pearson, said while it was "fantastic news Rahaf is headed to safety in Canada", Australian officials should have acted with more urgency to resolve her case.

Australia's Education Minister Dan Tehan said Saturday that Australia had moved quickly to process her case but Canada made a decision to take her in.

The UNHCR granted al-Qunun legitimate refugee status and a number of countries - including Canada and Australia began talks to grant the teen asylum.

"She has become of a symbol of oppressed young women in Saudi Arabia".

Global News reached out to the UNHCR Canada for a comment, but a spokesperson said due to "protection reasons" the agency can not talk about her case.

The embassy and Thai officials earlier said that Alqunun was stopped by Thai authorities because she did not have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist, which appeared to have raised a red flag about the reasons for her trip.

"Rahaf temporarily suspended her #Twitter account because she has been receiving some very nasty, very real death threats".

Qunun's Twitter account was no longer active on Friday.

Qunun's case has highlighted the cause of women's rights in the repressive kingdom.

Alqunun's father and brother, who denied any allegations of abuse, traveled to Thailand and attempted to meet her, but Surachate said she had refused the meeting.

But just days after fleeing a powerful and allegedly abusive family in Saudi Arabia, al-Qunun has already been judged a legitimate refugee by the United Nations and been in contact with Australian officials in Bangkok about resettlement.

Last year Saudi women took to social media wearing their abayas - a loose, all-covering robe worn in public - inside out in 2018 to protest the dress code, which is strictly enforced by police.

The ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia has come under fire since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul past year.

Thai immigration officials had initially said she should return to Kuwait, where her family were waiting. In August, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman expelled Canada's ambassador and withdrew his own envoy after Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland used Twitter to call for the release of women's rights activists who had been arrested in Saudi Arabia.

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