Canberra to decide Saudi's fate after United Nations refugee ruling

11 Janvier, 2019, 05:57 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • In this Monday Jan. 7 2019 image made from video released by Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun  Human Rights Watch Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun views her mobile phone as she sits barricaded in a hotel room at an international airport in Bangkok Thailand. Alqunun says

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said on Thursday there was no timeframe for the assessment of the case of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, a Saudi woman who fled to Thailand saying she feared her family would kill her.

The UN's refugee agency has ruled Saudi woman Rahaf Al-Qunun is a refugee.

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Al-Qunun has told AFP her family subjected her to psychological and physical abuse and would kill her if she returned.

Ms al-Qunun's father denied ever physically abusing her, Thai immigration chief General Surachate Hakparn told reporters.

"They've done so in the past with China", she said.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has refused to detail Australia's time line for a decision over whether Australia will process a young Saudi woman's claim for asylum.

But armed with a phone, she barricaded herself into an airside hotel room and fought back - live-tweeting her fears of deportation in a campaign that swiftly galvanised global support and prompted a sharp U-turn by Thai officials.

Ms Alqunun had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum before she was detained last 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.

The department is considering the request "in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals", the spokesperson said.

When pressed if Australia had cancelled al-Qunun's visa after she was arrested, Payne declined to comment.

"If she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa", Australian Health Minister Greg Hunt had said before the United Nations assessment was made public.

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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.

She only joined the social media site at the start of this month but has quickly racked up more than 100,000 followers.

Elaine Pearson, the Australian director of Human Rights Watch, questioned why the Thai government was spinning its wheels over Araibi when it had separately agreed to protect Qunun.

"[The] cause and reasoning [of both cases] are entirely different", she said. "He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes", General Surachate said.

A UNHCR representative said "the process is still ongoing".

Some online users from Saudi Arabia have been critical of her actions. Saudi religious law forbids her to travel alone without permission of her male guardian.

"Please help", al-Qunun posted on Twitter, "I am in Bangkok about to be forced on a flight back to Saudi where my life is in danger".

"It would have been better if they had confiscated her mobile instead of her passport". She said had been confined inside a hotel room at the airport, under the guard of men she said were from the Saudi embassy and Kuwait airlines.

Saudi Arabia has come under fire since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the country's consulate in Istanbul previous year. He is obligated to do everything in his power to advocate, both privately and publicly, and to use the vast leverage that football has, with the Bahrain government, his own government, he's a Bahrainian national, and also with the Thai government to release Hakeem.

On Wednesday, the UNHCR officially gave her refugee status after reviewing her case. Human rights activists say many similar cases have gone unreported.

"FIFA is therefore calling on all the relevant authorities (in Bahrain, Thailand and Australia) to take the necessary steps to ensure that Mr Hakeem Al-Alaraibi is allowed to return safely to Australia where he can resume his career as a professional footballer", a statement read.

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