Saudi teen who fled family leaves Thailand for asylum in Canada

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By Patpicha Tanakasempipat and Anna Mehler Paperny

BANGKOK/TORONTO (Reuters) – An 18-year-old Saudi lady who fled her household saying she feared for her life has been granted asylum in Canada, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau mentioned on Friday, as Thai officers confirmed the teenager was en path to Toronto.

Trudeau mentioned United Nations Excessive Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had requested Canada to soak up Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who grabbed worldwide consideration this week after she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport resort room to withstand being despatched house to her household, which denies any abuse.

“Canada is a rustic that understands how necessary it’s to face up for human rights, to face up for girls’s rights around the globe, and I can verify that we have now accepted the U.N.’s request,” he advised reporters.

The choice is prone to exacerbate Canada’s already poor relations with Saudi Arabia, which final 12 months barred the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh after Ottawa criticized Saudi authorities for detaining girls’s’ activists.

Qunun arrived in Bangkok on Saturday and was initially denied entry, however she quickly began posting messages on Twitter from the transit space of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had “escaped Kuwait” and her life could be in peril if compelled to return to Saudi Arabia.

Following a 48-hour stand-off at Bangkok airport, a few of it barricaded in a transit lounge resort room, she was allowed to enter Thailand and was then processed as a refugee by the UNHCR.

The UNHCR welcomed Canada’s choice and likewise acknowledged Thailand had given Qunun non permanent refuge.

“Ms. al-Qunun’s plight has captured the world’s consideration over the previous few days, offering a glimpse into the precarious state of affairs of thousands and thousands of refugees worldwide,” U.N. Excessive Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi mentioned in a press release.

Qunun has accused her household of abuse, and has refused to satisfy her father and brother who arrived in Bangkok to strive take her again to Saudi Arabia.

“It was her want to go to Canada,” Thailand’s immigration chief Surachate Hakparn advised reporters. “She nonetheless refuses to satisfy together with her father and brother, and they will be travelling again tonight as nicely … They’re dissatisfied.”

Her case has drawn world consideration to Saudi Arabia’s strict social guidelines, together with a requirement that girls have the permission of a male “guardian” to journey, which rights teams say can lure girls and ladies as prisoners of abusive households.

A Korean Air flight carrying Qunun left Bangkok for Seoul on Friday night time at 11:37 p.m. native time (1637 GMT), an airport official advised Reuters.

Qunun will board a connecting flight to Toronto from Seoul’s Incheon airport. She is predicted to reach in Canada on Saturday morning.

Trudeau dismissed a query as as to whether Canada’s transfer would possibly make it tougher to restore ties with Saudi Arabia.

“Canada has been unequivocal that we’ll all the time arise for human rights and girls’s rights around the globe,” he mentioned.

Amid rising home political stress, Trudeau mentioned final month that his Liberal authorities was on the lookout for a method out of a multibillion-dollar arms cope with Riyadh.

Qunun’s flight has emerged at a time when Riyadh is going through unusually intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and over the humanitarian penalties of its conflict in Yemen.

Canada has repeatedly mentioned Khashoggi’s homicide was unacceptable and demanded a full clarification.

(Reporting by Patpicha Tanakasempipat; extra reporting by Juarawee Kittilipsa in Bangkok, David Ljunggren in Ottawa, Julie Gordon in Vancouver and Anna Mehler Paperny in Toronto; modifying by William Maclean and Marguerita Choy)

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