Saudi teen granted Canada asylum: Thai authorities

Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun shakes hands with Thai Immigration Police Chief Surachet Hakparn

Thailand Immigration Police chief Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn said the father - whose name has not been released - denied physically abusing Alqunun or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were among the reasons she gave for her flight.

"They were on it from the get-go", said Robertson.

In a widely followed social media (Twitter) campaign, the plucky 18 year old explained she had "escaped Kuwait" and her life would have been in danger if Thai authorities had deported her back to Saudi Arabia.

Thai authorities eventually allowed her to enter the country on Monday evening and the United Nations refugee agency referred Rahaf to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement.

If Canada takes Ms Mohammed al-Qunun, it could further upset Saudi-Canada relations.

There are now 25.4 million refugees worldwide, says UNHCR, and only a fraction of those will be resettled.

It is only two days since the Australian government announced that it had been approached to take Ms Qunun, and that it would treat her request sympathetically.

"If she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa", health minister Greg Hunt had said before the United Nations determination was public.

A loose group of activists and friends bolstered her social media campaign using the hashtag #SaveRahaf and was able to stave off deportation.

Ms al-Qunun has also claimed her family would kill her if she were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where she has renounced Islam and "rebelled" against her father.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun has boarded a plane in Bangkok and was expected to fly to Canada, Thai immigration police told The Associated Press on Friday.

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Payne said in her statement that she will raise his case with the Thai government to find ways for his safe return to Australia. She accuses them of having subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.

A UNHCR representative said "the process is still ongoing".

The Thai authorities' earlier willingness to return al-Qunun to Kuwait or Saudi Arabia could help her meet that standard.

Under Saudi Arabia's "male guardianship system", a Saudi woman is required to obtain a male relative's approval to apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study overseas on a government scholarship, get married, leave prison, or even exit a shelter for abuse victims.

"She needs to be protected from those who want to murder her, and should promptly be given asylum in Australia", the commentary said.

"It would have been better if they had confiscated her mobile instead of her passport".

The 18-year-old gained worldwide attention after she began tweeting from Bangkok.

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Refugee status is normally granted by governments, but the UNHCR can grant it where states are "unable or unwilling to do so", according to its website.

If accepted, she would have a gateway to Australian citizenship.

On Thursday its foreign minister said Canberra was still assessing the request. He was arrested while on holiday in Thailand last November due to an Interpol notice in which Bahrain sought his custody after he was sentenced in absentia in 2014 to 10 years in prison for allegedly vandalizing a police station - a charge he denies.

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