Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun who fled ‘abusive’ family given United Nations refugee status

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The Australian government said it was "pleased" the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) was assessing her claim. She had hoped to travel to Australia where she has friends before she was detained at the Bangkok airport this past weekend and threatened with deportation.

A spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Babar Baloch, said at its Geneva headquarters that it could take several days for the agency to look into Qunun's claims.

Qunun told the world of her dramatic plight on social media, drawing widespread support and concern, which convinced Thai authorities to back down from deporting her back to Saudi Arabia.

Al-Qunun's friend Nourah Alharbi, 20, credits the far-reaching social media campaign and attention from global media with saving al-Qunun's life.

The father of 18-year-old Saudi woman, who fled to Thailand saying she feared her family, wants to "take her home" and told the United Nations refugee agency he is "against" her seeking asylum, the Thai immigration chief said on Wednesday. "This should be the standard for any individual who claims that his or her life is in danger".

Qunun said she had been planning to seek asylum in Australia but was stopped by Thai immigration officials upon her landing on Sunday, reports Agence France-Presse.

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

But she was intercepted by Thai authorities, who initially wanted to send her back to her family.al-Qunun says her family consider her a "slave", and would kill her if she were sent back, as punishment for renouncing Islam. "I'm not safe yet", her account tweeted.

Thailand is not a signatory to the UN Refugee Convention and provides no legal protection to asylum seekers, although there are more than 100,000 refugees in the country. Like Alqunun, she comes from Ha'il province in northwestern Saudi Arabia.

Zainah Anwar, executive director of Musawah, a global project, which seeks to restore equality and justice for men and women in Muslim family law, said the guardianship system treats women as if they were "children" in Muslim Saudi Arabia.

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He said the father denied physically abusing Ms Alqunun or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, two of the reasons she gave for her flight.

Human Rights Watch earlier called on the Australian government to allow Qunun's entry into that country, amid worries about her visa status.

A woman in Britain had launched an online petition calling on Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt to grant Qunun asylum and issue her an emergency travel document.

Thailand's immigration police chief, Maj.

When someone makes very serious allegations of abuse, torture or a threat to their life, authorities have to take it at face value and allow the proper protocols of investigation to occur, Ms Stirling said.

Qunun has said she believes she will be imprisoned or killed if sent back, and that her family is so strict it once locked her in a room for six months for cutting her hair.

"[Ms] Rahaf is not a political asylum case", he insisted. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years and returned home.

Alqunun's shrewd use of social media - one of the few tools available to her while barricaded in a hotel room - may have been her saving grace.

The latest incident comes against the backdrop of intense scrutiny on Saudi Arabia over the shocking murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi past year, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record.

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