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Aus­tralia on de­fen­sive as Saudi refugee heads to Canada

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS -

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.”

Iron­woman Jor­dan Mercer is one of a new gen­er­a­tion of fe­male ath­letes who have be­come tougher, stronger and faster un­der the new age of pro­fes­sion­al­ism in women’s sport. See our four-page SPE­CIAL RE­PORT start­ing p45.Pic­ture: Phil Hill­yard

Ms Alqu­nun.

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