Canada, Australia willing to accept Saudi woman: Thai police

BANGKOK (AP) — Several countries including Canada and Australia are in talks with the United Nations (UN) refugee agency to accept a Saudi asylum seeker who fled alleged abuse from her family, Thai police said yesterday.

Thailand’s immigration police chief, Surachate Hakparn, told reporters the UN was accelerating the case, though he gave no indication of when the process would be complete.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun was stopped at a Bangkok airport last Saturday by Thai immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport. While barricading herself in an airport hotel room, the 18-year-old launched a social media campaign that drew global attention to her case and enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of UN officials.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees eventually granted her refugee status last Wednesday.

Alqunun has said on her Twitter account that she wishes to seek refuge in Australia.

Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with senior Thai officials in Bangkok last Thursday. She later told reporters that Australia was assessing Alqunun’s request for resettlement, but there was no specific timeframe.

Payne said she also raised Australia’s concerns with Thai officials about Hakeem Al-araibi, a 25-year-old former member of Bahrain’s national football team, who was granted refugee status in Australia in 2017 after fleeing his homeland, where he said he was persecuted and tortured.

Hakeem’s case is being considered by Thailand’s justice system, she said.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun (R) walks with an unidentified companion in Bangkok. – AP