Runaway Saudi woman leaves for Canada

Australia Considering Resettlement for Fleeing Saudi Woman

A Saudi teenager who fled to Thailand over alleged abuse by her family has been granted asylum in Canada, Thailand's immigration chief told Reuters on Friday.

While Payne said there was "no timeframe" for a decision, Thailand's immigration department chief, Surachate Hakparn, said it should become clear by Friday evening where Qunun would be granted asylum.

She meant to fly on to Australia, but barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok's main airport on Sunday after Thai immigration officials attempted to deport her back to the Middle East.

Armed with a smartphone, she hastily opened Twitter account and forced a U-turn from Thai immigration police who handed her into the care of the UN's refugee agency as the #SaveRahaf hashtag case bounced across the world.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun's case has drawn global attention to Saudi Arabia's strict social rules, including a requirement that women have the permission of a male "guardian" to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families. Human rights activists say many such cases have gone unreported.

Trudeau brushed off a question as to whether Canada's move might make it harder to fix ties with Saudi Arabia.

Her story has also put Saudi Arabia's guardianship laws, which restrict many aspects of women's lives, back under worldwide scrutiny.

There was "no possibility" that al-Qunun would return to Australia with her yesterday, said Payne, who declined to speculate on a timeframe for giving the Saudi teen asylum if she were granted refugee status.

It was unclear why Qunun made a decision to seek asylum in Canada after initially expressing a desire to live Down Under.

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In response, Saudi Arabia accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs and expelled the Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia and recalled its own ambassador from Ottawa.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters: "Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world".

The embassy and Thai officials earlier said that Alqunun was stopped by Thai authorities because she did not have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist, which appeared to have raised a red flag about the reasons for her trip.

"We are providing necessary security for her", he said.

On Friday, Ms Qunun wrote on Twitter that she had "some good news and some bad news", before deleting her account.

Thailand, which is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, has a mixed history of handling asylum seekers.

Australian Foreign Minister Senator Marise Payne visited Thai officials in Bangkok Thursday to also raise concerns about Hakeem al-Araibi, a 25 year old former member of Bahrain's national soccer team, now detained in Thailand.

"I understand that there have been death threats against her but I don't know the details", said Phil Robertson from Human Rights Watch, adding even threats from online trolls need to be taken seriously. The UNHCR granted her refugee status, and Australia's Department of Home Affairs told NPR that Australia would "consider this referral [for refugee resettlement] in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".

Al-Araibi's case is being considered by Thailand's justice system, she said.

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