Aus­tralia con­sid­er­ing re­set­tle­ment for run­away Saudi wo­man

The Myanmar Times - - Asean Focus -

AUS­TRALIA will as­sess run­away Saudi wo­man Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun for set­tle­ment af­ter the United Na­tions on Wed­nes­day deemed her a refugee.

The De­part­ment of Home Af­fairs con­firmed in a state­ment that the U.N. High Com­mis­sioner for Refugees had re­ferred 18-year-old Alqu­nun to Aus­tralia for con­sid­er­a­tion for refugee set­tle­ment.

Alqu­nun ar­rived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait on Satur­day, and planned to con­tinue to Aus­tralia, for which she held a tourist visa. But af­ter be­ing de­tained by Thai au­thor­i­ties, she re­fused to board a flight back to Kuwait, bar­ri­cad­ing her­self in a ho­tel room.

Af­ter pub­li­ciz­ing her case via so­cial me­dia, say­ing she feared for her safety if made to re­turn home to her fam­ily, she was placed in the care of UN­HCR work­ers as her bid for refugee sta­tus was con­sid­ered, lead­ing to her re­fer­ral to Aus­tralia on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

“The UN­HCR has re­ferred Ms Ra­haf Mo­hammed Alqu­nun to Aus­tralia for con­sid­er­a­tion for refugee re­set­tle­ment,” Aus­tralia’s Home Af­fairs De­part­ment said, adding it would “con­sider this re­fer­ral in the usual way, as it does with all UN­HCR re­fer­rals.”

In­di­ca­tions from Can­berra sug­gest Alqu­nun may re­ceive a sym­pa­thetic hear­ing.

Be­fore the UN­HCR’s re­fer­ral, Health Min­is­ter Greg Hunt said Aus­tralia would con­sider giv­ing Alqu­nun a hu­man­i­tar­ian visa if the UN­HCR process found her to be a refugee.

“Pend­ing the out­come of that, if she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very se­ri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion to a hu­man­i­tar­ian visa,” he told the Aus­tralian Broad­cast­ing Corp.

Alqu­nun’s case has again high­lighted the cause of women’s rights in Saudi Ara­bia. Sev­eral fe­male Saudi run­aways flee­ing abuse by their fam­i­lies have been caught try­ing to seek asy­lum abroad in re­cent years and re­turned home. Hu­man rights ac­tivists say many more sim­i­lar cases will have gone un­re­ported.

In Bangkok, Thai­land’s im­mi­gra­tion po­lice chief Maj. Gen. Su­rachate Hak­parn said that Alqu­nun’s fa­ther and brother ar­rived to­gether in Bangkok on Tues­day but Alqu­nun re­fused to meet them.

Su­rachate dis­cussed her case on Tues­day with Saudi Charge d’Af­faires in Thai­land Ab­dale­lah Mo­hammed A. Al­sheaiby. In a video clip of the meet­ing re­leased by Thai im­mi­gra­tion po­lice, Al­sheaiby is heard telling Thai of­fi­cials: “From the mo­ment she ar­rived, she opened a new ac­count and her fol­low­ers reached al­most 45,000 in a day . And I would have pre­ferred it bet­ter if her phone was taken in­stead of her pass­port.” –

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