- A Saudi citizen who fled her family to seek asylum in Australia reportedly passed a UN refugee evaluation which means she can’t be sent home.
- Rahaf al-Qunun barricaded herself in a Bangkok hotel room, documented on a viral Twitter page. She says her family thinks of her as a slave, and will kill her for renouncing Islam.
- The UN’s High Commissioner for Refugees granted her official refugee status on Wednesday, according to the Guardian and BBC.
- Refugee status means the UN thinks a person’s fears are well-founded. International law means such people cannot be sent back to the place they are fleeing.
- Australia said it will now decide whether to grant al-Qunun asylum.
A Saudi teen who locked herself in a Bangkok hotel room to escape family who she says “consider me as property” has reportedly been judged to be a legitimate refugee by the UN. This would mean that she can’t be sent back to them.
Rahaf al-Qunun, 18, flew to Thailand on Saturday from Kuwait, where her plan was to continue to Australia and lodge an asylum claim.
But she was intercepted by Thai authorities, who initially wanted to send her back to her family. al-Qunun says her family consider her a “slave”, and would kill her if she were sent back, as punishment for renouncing Islam.
To avoid this, al-Qunun barricaded herself into a hotel room in Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi airport, and started tweeting about her situation. Her story went viral, and she was put under the protection of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
On Wednesday, Australia’s Home Affairs Department confirmed to INSIDER that the UNHCR had referred al-Qunun to them “for consideration for refugee resettlement.”
The UNHCR declined to confirm this to INSIDER, citing a policy of not commenting on individual cases.
Regardless of whether Australia takes her in, if al-Qunun has refugee status it means she is protected from being sent back.
Under rules agreed at the UN 1951 Refugee Convention, member states are banned from sending someone with refugee status back to the country they are fleeing.
Thailand, where al-Qunun now is, has not signed up to these rules. But the Thai government has also said that it wants to protect refugees, and immigration officials have said they do not intend to send al-Qunun back.
Regardless of whether Australia takes her in, if al-Qunun has refugee status, it means she is protected from being sent back.
al-Qunun’s father and brother arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday and requested to see her, but she refused.