Rahaf al-Qunun: Saudi woman 'given refugee status'

BY: bbc.com
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, pictured at Bangkok airport, says she
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, pictured at Bangkok airport, says she "wants to be free" away from Saudi Arabia

A Saudi woman who fled her family and refused to leave a Bangkok hotel has been declared a legitimate refugee by the UN, the Australian government says.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, refused to board a flight from Bangkok to Kuwait on Monday and barricaded herself into her airport hotel room.

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She said she feared her family would kill her for renouncing Islam.

The UN's refugee agency has referred her case to Australia for possible resettlement.

In a brief statement, Australia's Department of Home Affairs said it would "consider this referral in the usual way".


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"The government will be making no further comment on this matter," it said.

Refugee status is normally granted by governments, but the UNHCR can grant it where states are "unable or unwilling to do so, according to its website.

The UNHCR says it does not comment on individual cases.

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Ms Mohammed al-Qunun's father and brother have arrived in Thailand but she is refusing to see them.

Thai immigration officials had initially said she should return to Kuwait, where her family were waiting.

Officials in Australia have hinted that her request will be accepted.

"If she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa," Health Minister Greg Hunt told the ABC network before the UN determination was made public.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne will be in Thailand on Thursday as part of a pre-planned visit.