Trudeau confirms Saudi asylum seeker coming to Canada

Saudi teen refugee arrives in Canada

Saudi teen refugee arrives in Canada

A Saudi woman who fled her family and became stranded at Bangkok's main airport is now flying to Canada to seek asylum, Thai officials say.

The Australian government said it was considering Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun for refugee resettlement, in a case that has advanced rapidly since the weekend when the 18-year-old barricaded herself in an airport hotel in Thailand and publicized her case on social media. No other details were immediately offered.

The UN refugee agency UNHCR had referred Qunun's protection request to Australia on Wednesday, though it had not been confirmed before now that Canada was also considering her case.

She soon started posting messages on Twitter from the transit area of Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport saying she had "escaped Kuwait" and her life would be in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

On Wednesday, Thai officials had allowed her to assume temporary protection of United Nations officials. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum overseas in recent years and returned home.

Human rights campaigners say many similar 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.

She said she had renounced Islam, which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun had arrived in Bangkok from Kuwait on January 5 and has claimed that her family will kill her if she is forcibly returned.

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On Thursday its foreign minister said Canberra was still assessing the request.

It all began with a simple tweet last summer, after Amnesty International learned the Saudi government had arrested several female human rights activists.

But just days after fleeing a powerful and allegedly abusive family in Saudi Arabia, al-Qunun has already been judged a legitimate refugee by the United Nations and been in contact with Australian officials in Bangkok about resettlement.

She said she meant to take a connecting flight to Australia - and had an Australian visa - but that her passport was seized by a Saudi diplomat when he met her coming off the flight at Suvarnabhumi airport, leaving her stranded.

By Friday, Alqunun had closed down her Twitter account. It was reinstated as of late Friday, and she posted photos of herself holding her green Saudi passport aboard a flight.

Payne said during her visit to Thailand yesterday, she had also advocated the safe return to Australia of footballer Hakeem al-Araibi, who has been detained in Thailand since November while trying to go on vacation. Australia's Education Minister Dan Tehan said Saturday that Australia had moved quickly to process her case but Canada chose to take her in.

"She's just been receiving a lot of death threats", McNeill said on Twitter. Then, Canada levelled sanctions against many Saudis believed to be involved in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and is said to be considering pulling out of the deal to sell light-armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

The UN agency thanked both governments for their quick response and specifically thanked Canada for accepting al-Qunun and arranging her travel.

Australia had been one of the countries weighing offering Ms Alqunun asylum.

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