Canada set to welcome Saudi teen who was granted asylum

Canada set to welcome Saudi teen who was granted asylum

An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled her family saying she feared for her life has been granted asylum in Canada, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said on Friday, as Thai officials confirmed the teen was en route to Toronto.

Qunun grabbed global attention this week after barricading herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family.

Thailand's immigration police chief says a Saudi woman who fled alleged abuse by her family will leave Bangkok for Canada.

Thai authorities backed down on an attempt to deport her after she arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait a week ago, turning her over to the US's refugee agency instead.

"Rahaf received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account, please save Rahaf life", tweeted supporter @nourahfa313, who has flanked Rahaf's social media campaign with her own updates on Twitter. Until that happens, she is under the care of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Bangkok.

As she entered the arrivals area, she was accompanied by Canada's minister of foreign affairs, Chrystia Freeland, who has been a vocal critic of Saudi Arabia's jailing of female dissidents.

"3rd country", she wrote, apparently referring to Canada.

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees eventually granted her refugee status on Wednesday.

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Earlier, the Australian government welcomed the news that Ms Alqunun was granted asylum in Canada, saying her safety was its primary concern.

The decision is likely to exacerbate Canada's already poor relations with Saudi Arabia, which past year barred the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh after Ottawa criticized Saudi authorities for detaining women's' activists.

A Saudi envoy in Bangkok denied any official Saudi involvement in Ms Qunun's detention, and her passport was later returned.

Saudi Arabia responded by kicking out the Canadian ambassador, recalling the Saudi ambassador to Canada and all Saudi students studying in the country, and suspending flights as well as "all new businesses transactions and investments linked with Canada".

"She chose Canada. It's her personal decision", General Surachate told The Associated Press. She said her father physically abused her and tried to force her into an arranged marriage. He said Qunun's father wanted his daughter back but respected her decision.

No country, including the USA, spoke out publicly in support of Canada in that spat with the Saudis. "He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes", Surachate said. Shortly after, her account was deactivated.

Mr Trudeau said: "Canada has been unequivocal that we'll stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world".

Australia's Foreign Minister Marise Payne met with senior Thai officials in Bangkok on Thursday. She also said she had been beaten, that her male relatives had threatened to kill her and that she was once kept in her room for a month for cutting her hair.

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