Australia asked by United Nations to resettle Saudi Arabian teen

Rahaf Alqunun left says she fled abuse by her family and wants asylum in Australia

Rahaf Alqunun left says she fled abuse by her family and wants asylum in Australia

Gen. Surachate Hakparn, head of Thai Immigration Police, told reporters at a press conference.

Those claims were among the reasons she gave for fleeing, Thailand's Immigration Police chief said after meeting him Wednesday. He also said they would try to appeal against her resettlement.

For now, Alqunun appears to be safe and to have achieved an interim victory: the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has reportedly recommended her for resettlement in Australia, which is now assessing her claim.

Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton talks to reporters.

"Rahaf is not a political asylum case", he insisted. He remains in custody at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

The UNHCR office in Thailand also declined to comment.

Saudi Arabia denied ever planning to apprehend al-Qunun and send her home, calling the whole affair a "family matter".

A regional crossroads for labor and migration, Thailand houses some 106,000 refugees and asylum seekers, according to figures from UNHCR.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun arrived at Thailand's Suvarnabhumi airport on a flight from Kuwait on Sunday after running away from her family, who she says subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had referred Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to Australia for consideration for refugee settlement.

"Australia's refugee intake policy has two main streams, either through humanitarian programs of the government or the UNHCR's referral program", said Nurmuhammad Said Majid, an Australian immigration consultant.

Australia had earlier said it would consider resettling her if the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) deemed her a refugee, which the worldwide organization did on Wednesday.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said the move by Ms Alqunun's father was concerning. After mounting a campaign for assistance on Twitter, she was allowed to temporarily stay in Thailand under the care of the United Nations refugee agency, which ruled her claim for asylum valid. "We will take care of her as best as we can".

He added that he is set to meet with Saudi diplomats on Tuesday to discuss Thailand's decision on Qunun's status.

In this January 7, 2019, file photo released by the Immigration Bureau, Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, foreground, walks by Chief of Immigration Police Maj. Several female Saudi runaways fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years and returned home. "They kept telling me they will kill me if I do something wrong-they say that since I was a child".

Thai immigration police chief Major General Surachate Hakparn said United Nations officials had expected her case would be concluded within days.

Eighteen-year-old Rahaf al-Qanun on Saturday launched a call for help via Twitter from a Bangkok airport where her passport was initially confiscated.

As the hashtag #SaveRahaf spread on Twitter, it also showed the enormous power of social media.

General Surachate said the father denied trying to force his daughter into an arranged marriage. But Alqunun barricaded herself in her airport hotel room.

"The embassy also confirms that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia did not demand her deportation back to her country", the statement said.

The message sparked a social media campaign, dubbed "Save Dina Ali", but she was returned to Riyadh - and that is the last anyone outside Saudi Arabia officially heard from her.

A young woman who said she had helped Alqunun escape told The Australian Alqunun had opted for the Australian tourist visa because it was one of the few offered online.

The 18-year-old barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room with a table and mattress on Saturday when she was barred from entering the country and the Thai government threatened to deport her back to Kuwait.

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