Published: Fri, January 11, 2019

Thai Police: Canada, Australia Open to Accept Saudi Runaway

Thai Police: Canada, Australia Open to Accept Saudi Runaway

A U.S. news report says the young Saudi woman, who fled from her family during a holiday last weekend, has been granted asylum in Australia.

"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 told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. before the UNHCR's referral.

The 25-year-old played for Bahrain's national team before he fled the country some four years ago saying he had been tortured after being arrested in 2012.

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.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun's attempt to flee the ultra-conservative kingdom has become a cause celebre for rights groups since the 18-year-old landed in Bangkok from Kuwait over the weekend.

As global interest surged, Thai authorities backed down from the deportation threat, handing her into the care of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in Bangkok, which has urged Australia to offer resettlement.

Australia on Wednesday said the UNHCR had studied her case and designated her as a legitimate refugee.

Jacquie Love from women's rights organisation Secret Sisterhood said Qunun's story had touched her heart.

"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.

Australia is one of the few countries in the world that will resettle refugees who are already outside their home country, but this is extremely rare. "Don't let anyone break your wings, you're free", she tweeted late Wednesday.

HA protestor holds a placard during a protest in front of the Opera House for the release of refugee footballer Hakeem Alaraibi in Sydney on January 10, 2019.

While Payne will be in Thailand, the demonstration also coincides with an AFC (Asian Football Confederation) Asian Cup match between Thailand and Bahrain, which is taking place in the United Arab Emirates.

"The BBC should be condemning Islamic blasphemy laws and defending human rights and women's rights".

"The Government will be making no further comment on this matter".

"It would be a pretty stunning reversal if they didn't take her", he said.

For Pearson, Araibi's case is a test for FIFA's human rights policy, which it adopted in mid-2017.

That, says Mary Anne Kenny, is why talk of al-Qunun "jumping the queue" are misplaced.

She would like to see Federation Internationale de Football Association send a high-level delegation to Bangkok to meet Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha and press for Araibi's release, highlight his case globally and mobilise players and clubs to voice their support.

'I'm scared to be killed just like him, ' she said.

Araibi's lawyer says she is confident that the footballer can be returned to Australia, but warned the process could take as long as a year.

"We need the global community to stand up and condemn the situation both from Thailand and Bahrain that [allowed] this to occur", said Thom.

"And actually his tribe is one of the largest tribes in Saudi Arabia, so it's quite influential and she certainly would have faced grievous physical harm and perhaps death if she had been sent back based on what I've been told by our researcher and others", he said. "If we are looking at a case like [Araibi's], I think there is a possibility of a good outcome".

Ms Payne said she had also spoken to Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister about the detention of Hakeen AlAraibi, and his possible return to Bahrain.

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