Canada OKs asylum for Saudi teen fleeing family

Jan. 12 (UPI) — The 18-year-old woman fleeing Saudi Arabia over concerns her family would kill her was granted asylum in Canada.

Rahaf Mohammed Al-qunun was en route to Toronto Friday night from Thailand, where days ago she barricaded herself in a hotel room and shared information about her situation on social media, rather than face deportation back to Kuwait, where she escaped from her family while on vacation.

The New York Times reported Thailand’s immigration chief, Surachate Hakparn, said Canada approved Al-qunun’s request for asylum. The United Nations Refugee Agency confirmed she left Thailand for Canada on Friday.

“She’s lively, she’s smiling and healthy,” Surachate said at a news conference. “She said that as soon as she arrives in Canada, one of the first things she wants to do is learn the language. She has determination.”

The Times reported Al-qunun has said she suffered beatings from her brother and her family punished her for the way she cut her hair by locking her in a room for six months.

She said she interviewed with both Canada and Australia, her original choice for seeking asylum. Surachate said Al-qunun preferred to go to Canada, adding that her father is a provincial governor in Saudi Arabia and denied abusing his daughter.

“This matter, therefore, ends for Thailand,” Surachate said in the Times report. “This issue is not about international relations. This is about a family affair.”

The U.N. Refugee Agency praised both Canada and Thailand for their “quick actions” toward resettling Al-qunun.

“Ms. al-Qunun’s plight has captured the world’s attention over the past few days, providing a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide,” United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said. “Refugee protection today is often under threat and cannot always be assured, but in this instance international refugee law and overriding values of humanity have prevailed.”

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