Saudi woman seeking asylum in Australia remains in hotel, despite bid to deport her



January 07, 2019 16:18:37

The flight that was to have removed a distressed Saudi teenager attempting to seek asylum in Australia has left Bangkok airport without her.

Key points:

  • Thai immigration officials have arrived to try to force Rahaf Alqunun to return home
  • Ms Alqunun was detained in Bangkok en route to Australia to seek asylum, she says
  • The ABC has contacted Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs for comment

Kuwait Airlines flight 412 took passengers on board and left without 18-year-old Rahaf Alqunun, who was detained in Thailand yesterday.

Ms Alqunun flew from Kuwait and said she had a ticket onwards to Australia where she had hoped to seek asylum over fears her family would kill her for renouncing Islam.

But when she arrived in Bangkok a Saudi diplomat met her at the airport and forcibly confiscated her passport, she said.

Ms Alqunun has since barricaded herself inside her room at an airport hotel where she now remains, and is requesting to speak to the United Nations refugee office.

In a video message posted to social media today, Ms Alqunun said she would continue the barricade.

“I’m not leaving my room until I see UNHCR [the UN Refugee Agency],” she said.

“I want asylum.”

Representatives from the UNHCR today tried to access the airport to interview the 18-year-old, but were blocked by the Thai Government.

While confined inside the hotel, being watched by men she said were from the Saudi embassy and Kuwait Airlines, Ms Alqunun began tweeting that she had “nothing to lose”.

“My name is Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun and this is my picture,” she tweeted.

“I’m afraid, my family WILL kill me.”

The ABC has received a video message from the teenager, to be broadcast in the event she disappears.

Saudi Arabia remains one of the world’s most repressive countries for women.

Under the “guardianship” system, women are forbidden from travelling without a male escort — a father, uncle, husband, brother or son.

The ABC has contacted Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Immigration Police Chief for comment, but there has been no response.

The case comes three months after Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi was murdered inside the Saudi Arabian embassy in Turkey, and two months since Thai officials detained Australian refugee Hakeem AlAraibi in Bangkok.





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