By The Nation
UN High Commissioner for Refugees has taken the Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed Al-qunun under its care to assess her claims, after she pled for its intervention to grant her asylum status and protect her from being sent back to meet her family in Saudi Arabia.
The agency said in its statement that it will take “several days” to assess her claims before taking further steps. The refugee agency also applauded Thailand for its decision to halt their deportation of Al-qunun and allow UNHCR staff to access her.
“We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back Al-qunun against her will and are extending protection for her,” said UNHCR’s representative in Thailand, Giuseppe de Vicentiis, in the statement.
The 18-year-old Al-Qunun ran away during a family trip in Kuwait, over claims that she was forced into marriage and had been subject to physical and emotional abuse by her family.
While flying alone to Australia to seek asylum, the teenager was detained by officials over the weekend during her transit at Suvarnabhumi Airport. Top Thai authorities including immigration chief Surachate Hakparn and deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwan initially said they initially intended to deport her back to Saudi Arabia as she lacked important travel documents.
However, Thai authorities backtracked and said Thailand would not “force her” to leave after worldwide pressure from international human rights groups, media, and netizens who closely followed the teenager’s Twitter feed in which she desperately asked not to be deported to meet her family.
She also claimed that she would be killed if sent back. However, many things remained unclear, with the UNHCR refusing to reveal details of the case, citing her as safety and confidentiality