Father of fleeing Saudi woman arrives in Thailand

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The father of a Saudi teenager who fled her “abusive” family has arrived in Bangkok with the intention of meeting his daughter.

Rahaf Alqunun, who fears being killed by her family if she returns to Saudi Arabia, is currently in Thailand where UN refugee authorities are processing her request for asylum.

“The father and brother want to go and talk to Rahaf but the UN will need to approve such talk,” Surachte Hakpan, Thailand’s immigration chief, said.

The arrival of relatives is the latest obstacle in Ms Alqunun’s escape attempt, which saw her detained by Thai authorities and threatened with repatriation after she fled on a family holiday to Kuwait.

The 18-year-old broadcast videos of her plight on Twitter, saying she had been met by Saudi representatives and her passport seized when she arrived at the airport for a connecting flight to Australia, where she had a visa.

“I had been threatened to be killed before and they aren’t afraid to threaten me in public,” the teenager tweeted, later pleading for assistance by the UN, and to countries including Australia, Canada and the UK to offer her sanctuary.

Phil Robertson, deputy director of Human Rights Watch, said the move by Ms Alqunun’s father was concerning.

“We have no idea what he is going to do,” he said. “Whether he will try to find out where she is and go harass her. We don’t know whether he is going to try to get the embassy to do that.”

Father of fleeing Saudi woman arrives in Thailand
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Australia says it is considering the teenager's request for asylum

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Human Rights Watch have urged Australia to allow entry to Ms Alqunun, who says she is fleeing physical and psychological abuse in her home country.

Following reports that Ms Alqunun’s visa had been cancelled, the Australian government said on Tuesday it would consider the teenager’s request for asylum.

“The Australian government is pleased that Ms Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is having her claim for protection assessed,” a Department of Home Affairs said.

“Any application by Ms Alqunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded.”

Father of fleeing Saudi woman arrives in Thailand
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The Saudi government has denied claims it sent officials to bring Ms Alqunun back to the kingdom

Elaine Pearson, the director of Human Rights Watch Australia, said the country should “come forward and offer protection for this effects.com/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">young woman”.

The UNHCR has said it is “very grateful” that Thailand did not return Ms Alqunun and have said they are processing her case.

“It could take several days to process the case and determine next steps,” the UNHCR representative in Thailand, Giuseppe de Vicentiis, said.

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The Saudi government has denied claims it sent officials to bring Ms Alqunun back to the kingdom.

“The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not asked for her extradition,” the country’s embassy said in a tweet. “The embassy considers this issue a family matter.”