‘Brave new Canadian:’ Runaway Saudi woman arrives in country

TORONTO (AP) — An 18-year-old Saudi runaway who stated she was abused and feared demise if deported again house arrived Saturday in Canada, which had supplied her asylum in a case that attracted international consideration after she mounted a social media marketing campaign.

“That is Rahaf Alqunun, a really courageous new Canadian,” Overseas Minister Chrystia Freeland stated arm-in-arm with the Saudi lady in Toronto’s airport.

Alqunun smiled broadly as she exited an airport arrival door sporting a Canada zipper hoodie and a U.N. Excessive Commissioner for Refugees hat, capping a dramatic week that noticed her flee her household whereas visiting Kuwait and earlier than flying to Bangkok. From there, she barricaded herself in an airport lodge to keep away from deportation and tweeted about her state of affairs.

On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced that Canada would settle for Alqunun as a refugee. Her state of affairs has highlighted the reason for girls’s rights in Saudi Arabia, the place a number of girls fleeing abuse by their households have been caught attempting to hunt asylum overseas lately and returned house. Human rights activists say many related instances go unreported.

Freeland stated Alqunun most well-liked to not take questions Saturday.

“It was a pleasure for me this morning to welcome her to her new house,” Freeland stated. “She is clearly very drained after a protracted journey and he or she most well-liked to go and get settled. Nevertheless it was Rahaf’s selection to return out and say hi there to Canadians. She needed Canadians to see that she’s right here, that she’s effectively and that she’s very glad to be in her new house.”

Freeland stated Alqunun commented concerning the chilly and he or she responded that it will get hotter in Canada.

Alqunun earlier tweeted two footage from her aircraft seat — one with what seems to be a glass of wine and her passport and one other holding her passport whereas on the aircraft with the hashtag “I did it” and the emojis displaying aircraft, hearts and wine glass.

Canada’s resolution to grant her asylum might additional upset the nation’s relations with Saudi Arabia.

In August, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador to the dominion and withdrew its personal ambassador after Canada’s Overseas Ministry tweeted help for girls’s proper activists who had been arrested. The Saudis additionally offered Canadian investments and ordered their residents learning in Canada to go away.

No nation, together with the U.S., spoke out publicly in help of Canada in that spat with the Saudis. Freeland did not handle what Alqunun’s case would imply to Saudi relations.

“Canada believes very strongly in standing up for human rights all through the world. We imagine very strongly that lady’s rights are human rights,” Freeland stated.

Freeland stated the U.N. refugee company discovered that she was in harmful state of affairs in Thailand and stated Canada is glad they had been in a position to act shortly to supply refuge to an individual whose life was in peril.

Alqunun’s father arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, however his daughter refused to fulfill with him.

The workplace of the U.N. Excessive Commissioner for Refugees welcomed Canada’s resolution.

“The short actions over the previous week of the federal government of Thailand in offering non permanent refuge and facilitating refugee standing willpower by UNHCR, and of the federal government of Canada in providing emergency resettlement to Ms. Alqunun and arranging her journey had been key to the profitable decision of this case,” the company stated in an announcement.

A number of different nations, together with Australia, had been in talks with the U.N.’s refugee company to simply accept Alqunun, Surachate stated.

“She selected Canada. It is her private resolution,” he stated.

Australian media reported that UNHCR had withdrawn its referral for Alqunon to be resettled in Australia as a result of Canberra was taking too lengthy to determine on her asylum.

“When referring instances with particular vulnerabilities who want speedy resettlement, we connect nice significance to the velocity at which nations think about and course of instances,” a UNHCR spokesperson in Bangkok informed The Related Press in an electronic mail reply on situation of anonymity as a result of the individual wasn’t approved to debate the case publicly.

Canada’s ambassador had seen her off on the airport, the place Alqunun thanked everybody for serving to her. She plans to start out studying extra English, although she already speaks it greater than passably.

Alqunun was stopped Jan. 5 at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport by immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport.

She barricaded herself in an airport lodge room the place he social media marketing campaign acquired sufficient public and diplomatic help that Thai officers admitted her quickly below the safety of U.N. officers, who granted her refugee standing Wednesday.

Surachate stated her father — whose title has not been launched — denied bodily abusing Alqunun or attempting to drive her into an organized marriage, which had been among the many causes she gave for her flight. He stated Alqunun’s father needed his daughter again however revered her resolution.

“He has 10 kids. He stated the daughter may really feel uncared for typically,” Surachate stated.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, cited Alqunun’s “braveness and perseverance.”

“That is a lot a victory for everybody who cares about respecting and selling girls’s rights, valuing the independence of youth to forge their very own method, and demanding governments function within the mild and never darkness,” he stated in an announcement.


Related Press author Tassanee Vejpongsa in Bangkok contributed to this report.

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