Young Saudi asylum-seeker arrives in Canada to official welcome

Toronto (Canada) (AFP) – A younger Saudi lady who triggered a sensation by defying her household and searching for asylum overseas was welcomed with open arms in Toronto Saturday on the finish of an exhausting worldwide odyssey.

Overseas Minister Chrystia Freeland greeted Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, after she landed in Toronto, carrying a blue ball cap and a grey hoodie emblazoned in purple with the phrase “CANADA.”

Smiling broadly, she posed for photographers with Freeland at her aspect, however made no assertion.

“She had a reasonably lengthy journey and is exhausted and prefers to not take questions for the second,” Freeland mentioned.

Qunun captured the world’s consideration with a path of Twitter posts that ignited a #SaveRahaf motion as she fled what she mentioned was an abusive household in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia.

Thai authorities backed down on an try to deport her after she arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait every week in the past, turning her over to the US’s refugee company as an alternative.

Then on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the shock announcement that Canada would take her in.

The transfer is certain to additional pressure Canada’s relations with the dominion. That relationship went sideways final August over Ottawa’s rights criticism of Saudi Arabia, prompting Riyadh to expel the Canadian ambassador and sever all commerce and funding ties in protest.

Canada additionally sparked fury in Riyadh by demanding the “fast launch” of jailed rights campaigners, together with Samar Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, whose household lives in Quebec.

Qunun’s try to flee Saudi Arabia was embraced by rights teams as a beacon of defiance in opposition to repression.

-‘Precarious scenario’-

“Ms. al-Qunun’s plight has captured the world’s consideration over the previous few days, offering a glimpse into the precarious scenario of tens of millions of refugees worldwide,” mentioned Filippo Grandi, the UN Excessive Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Refugee safety as we speak is usually underneath menace and can’t all the time be assured, however on this occasion worldwide refugee legislation and overriding values of humanity have prevailed.”

Raif Badawi’s spouse Ensaf Haidar additionally praised Canada, calling Freeland on Twitter “the actual hero” behind efforts to forestall Qunun’s repatriation to Saudi Arabia.

Qunun alleged that she was abused by her household — who deny the allegations — and rights teams additionally mentioned she had renounced Islam, risking prosecution in Saudi Arabia.

Qunun first mentioned she was aiming for Australia, the place officers had steered they might give critical consideration to her declare for asylum, which was endorsed as professional by the UNHCR on Wednesday.

However late Friday Thailand’s immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn mentioned a smiling and cheerful Rahaf was sure for Toronto and had left on a flight after 11pm (1600 GMT).

“She selected Canada … (and) Canada mentioned it should settle for her,” Surachate instructed reporters at Bangkok’s major airport.

“She is secure now and has good bodily and psychological well being. She is completely satisfied.”

Qunun left from the identical airport the place her quest for asylum started in a swift-moving course of that defied most norms.

– Demise threats –

On Friday afternoon Qunun posted a cryptic tweet on her profile saying, “I’ve some excellent news and a few dangerous information.” Her account was deactivated shortly afterward in response to loss of life threats she had confronted, her mates mentioned.

However she was again on-line later within the day, tweeting: “I want to thanks folks for supporting me and saving my life. Really I’ve by no means dreamed of this love and assist.”

Qunun’s skillful use of Twitter noticed her amass tens of 1000’s of followers inside every week, highlighting her plight at a time when Saudi Arabia’s human rights report is underneath heavy scrutiny following the homicide of journalist Jamal Khashoggi final 12 months.

Her deployment of social media allowed her to keep away from the destiny of numerous different refugees who’re quietly despatched again house or left to languish in Bangkok detention facilities.

She refused to see her father, who traveled to Thailand and expressed opposition to her resettlement.

Surachate mentioned her father and brother have been as a result of return house on a flight within the early hours of Saturday.

Though Qunun’s asylum case moved shortly, the ultimate maneuvers that led to her flight to Canada stay largely a thriller.

Surachate had instructed reporters earlier Friday that “two or three” international locations have been prepared to supply her asylum.

The Southeast Asian nation will not be a signatory to a conference on refugees, and asylum seekers have to be referred to a 3rd nation.

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