Saudi teen who escaped abusive parents is placed ‘under the care’ of UN

[Courtesy of: New York Post https://nypost.com/2019/01/07/saudi-teen-who-escaped-abusive-parents-wont-be-immediately-deported/]

January 07/2019

A Saudi teen who was detained in Bangkok while en route to Australia for asylum to escape alleged abuse by her family has left her airport hotel room and placed “under the care” of the UN refugee agency, a Thai official said Monday.

Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun, 18, was allowed to temporarily enter Thailand under the protection of the agency, which was expected to take at least five to seven days to evaluate her case and claims for asylum status.

Thai police released photos of Qunun after she left the room at a Bangkok airport hotel where she had barricaded herself and sent desperate pleas for help over social media.

She began posting on Twitter late Saturday after her passport was taken away when she arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait.

The agreement allowing her to leave the airport came after officials from UNHCR met with Thai immigration police Chief Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, and then with the young woman.

UNHCR declined to release details about its meeting with Qunun, but its representative in Thailand, Giuseppe De Vincentiis, noted “a good spirit of collaboration so far” with Thai officials.

Babar Baloch, UNHCR’s spokesman in Geneva, confirmed Qunun had “left the airport to a safe place in the city,” according to Agence France-Presse.

Surachate said Qunun’s father was due to arrive in Bangkok on Monday night, and officials would then see if she was willing to leave with him. He said she would be asked if she was willing to meet with her father.

Abdulilah al-Shouaibi, charge d’affaires at the Saudi embassy in Bangkok, told Saudi-owned TV station Khalijia that Qunun’s father — a senior regional government official — had contacted the diplomatic mission for “help” bringing her back.

“As of now, she does not wish to go back and we will not force her. She won’t be sent anywhere tonight,” Surachate said. “She fled hardship. Thailand is a land of smiles. We will not send anyone to die. We will not do that. We will adhere to human rights under the rule of law.”

Qunun later tweeted that she felt safe under UN protection and has gotten back her passport.

Upon arriving at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport late Saturday, she said she was met by a man whom she identified as either a Kuwait Airways staffer or a Saudi diplomat, who took her passport and said he would help her gain entry to Thailand.

Saudi Arabia denies its officials were involved in the case.

When the man returned later with several other people, they said they knew she had run away, that her family wanted her back, and she should go home to Saudi Arabia.

She was sent to the hotel room, and told she would be put on a Monday morning flight to Kuwait – but then went online and sent out pleas for assistance over Twitter as she barricaded her hotel room door.

Qunun wrote of being in “real danger” if forced to return to her family in Saudi Arabia, telling media outlets that she might be killed. She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam and was fearful of her father’s retaliation.

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