Saudi teen flying to Canada, Justin Trudeau says ‘pleased’ to offer asylum


The head of Thailand's immigration bureau, Surachate Hakparn, said Alqunun would leave on a flight that would bring her to Toronto.

Their comments included "You're a waste of taxpayer's money", and a BBC official backtracked, with, "We accept that the original wording of our tweet did not reflect the question being posed on air and was open to misinterpretation".

The Department confirmed earlier on Wednesday it will consider any asylum application by Alqunun, 18, if she is deemed a refugee by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

After the 18-year-old refused officials' attempts to have her board a flight from the Thai capital to Kuwait on Monday, she barricaded herself inside an airport hotel room and took to social media to start a campaign that ended up garnering global attention to her case.

Qunun alleged that she was abused by her family - who deny the allegations - and rights groups also said she had renounced Islam, risking prosecution in Saudi Arabia. Several Saudis girls and women fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years, and returned home.

She is now en route to Canada, according to the Thai immigration chief.

Alqunun had previously said on Twitter that she wished to seek refuge in Australia.

Australia had dropped strong hints it would resettle her after the United Nations urged the country to accept her.

World football governing body FIFA says should be freed and allowed to return to Australia where he plays for Melbourne football club Pascoe Vale in the second tier of the Australian League.

She said a Saudi diplomat met her at the airport when she arrived in Bangkok and tricked her into handing over her passport and ticket, saying he would secure a visa.

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

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

'I understand that there have been death threats against her but I don't know the details, ' said Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch.

She barricaded herself in a hotel room at Bangkok airport after being stopped by officials and expressed fear that she would be killed if she was forced to return.

Qunun has accused her family of abuse, a charge they deny.

Last year Saudi women took to social media wearing their abayas - a loose, all-covering robe worn in public - inside out in 2018 to protest the dress code, which is strictly enforced by police.

Canada's acceptance of Alqunun is likely to further upset its relations with the Saudi rulers.

In recent weeks Canada has issued sanctions against 17 Saudis linked to the killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey and is reviewing its deal to supply light armoured vehicles to the kingdom.

"Canada is very concerned by and watching closely the situation of Ms Rahaf al-Qunun", spokesman Stefano Maron told MEE.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks to the press at the Australian embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, January 10, 2019.

Qunun's Twitter account was no longer active on Friday.