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Australia on defensive as Saudi refugee heads to Canada
THE Saudi teenager who fled her family in the Middle East for a new life in Australia has been granted asylum in Canada.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, boarded a Korean Air flight to Toronto at 3.30am Saturday (Sydney time) despite the Australian Government revealing it was considering her asylum claim.
The Morrison Government has been forced to defend its handling of the case after the UN accepted an offer from Can- ada over concerns for Ms Alqunun’s safety while she waited for Australia to act.
Addressing the media on Saturday, Education Minister Dan Tehan welcomed the news that Ms Alqunun’s asylum claim had been accepted.
He denied Australia had been too slow to act saying the government had “moved very quickly”.
“We were working very quickly to try and look at her case and process her case but Canada has stepped in,” Mr Tehan said. “I think everyone will welcome the fact she will be going to Canada and be safe.” But Greens Senator Sarah HansonYoung said Australia “didn’t act fast enough”.
“Sadly Australia dragged its feet a bit too long,” Senator Hanson-Young said. “The UNHCR were very concerned at her safety and had to get her out of there.”
Ms Alqunun had planned to seek asylum in Australia after renouncing Islam, punishable by death in Saudi Arabia. She boarded a flight to Australia but was stopped by authorities in Thailand.
In a tweet sent on her flight to Canada, Ms Alqunun said she was grateful for global support. “I would like to thank you people for supporting me and saving my life. Truly I have never dreamt of this love and support. You are the spark that would motivate me to be a better person.”
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