World News

Teen refugee fleeing Saudi Arabia arrives in Toronto

Teen refugee fleeing Saudi Arabia arrives in Toronto

Rahaf says her decision to flee Saudi Arabia, and the subsequent social media stir caused by her detention, makes it all the more risky for her to return.

A young Saudi woman who fled from her family out of fear for her life has left Thailand for Canada, where she has been granted asylum.

Australia's Education Minister Dan Tehan said Saturday that Australia had moved quickly to process her case but Canada chose to take her in.

As a Saudi woman who has publicly scorned her family, experts say she ticks many boxes. "Even in Canada, she'll need to be conscious of her security, but this is a real victory for women's rights", she said.

"If, for any reason, it doesn't work out with Australia, then UNHCR would say okay, we will take the file back and refer it to another country".

Canada's decision to grant her asylum could further upset the country's relations with Saudi Arabia. "This is part of a long tradition of Canada engaging constructively and positively in the world and working with our partners, allies and with the United Nations".

The case is the latest in a series highlighting what human rights activists say is the widespread subservient treatment of women in Saudi Arabia.

"Canada has granted her asylum", Mr. Surachate told Reuters.

The Saudi teen fled her family while visiting Kuwait and flew to Bangkok, where she barricaded herself in an airport hotel and launched a Twitter campaign that drew global attention to her case.

Shortly after hearing about Qunun's plight, Australia said that it would "carefully consider" granting Qunun a humanitarian protection visa, if she applied for one.

Several other countries, including Australia, had said they could welcome Alqunun as a refugee.

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"The Thai government is most certainly aware of the importance of this matter to Australia", Payne told reporters.

Federal officials had signaled earlier in the week that Canada would be open to taking in the teenager, after she had asked Canada for help, via her Twitter account.

Though her asylum case has moved at lightning speed the mystery over which country will accept Rahaf remains.

On Friday afternoon she posted a final cryptic tweet on her profile saying "I have some good news and some bad news" - shortly after her account was deactivated.

A loose group of activists and friends bolstered her social media campaign using the hashtag #SaveRahaf and was able to stave off deportation. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman responded by expelling Canada's ambassador and withdrawing his own envoy.

The U.N. refugee agency coordinated with Canadian authorities to resettle her there, and she will be in the care of the International Organization for Migration once she arrives, he added.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met Thursday with senior Thai officials in Bangkok.

"Once again we are seeing the abusive influence of Saudi authorities overseas as they seek to forcibly return Saudi women fleeing mistreatment and violence by their families", said Page.

"It's great news that Rahaf will get freedom and safety", McKim said.

"I know there is a lot of love all over the world for her and you can all tell her that when she's back online".

Australian Immigration Minister David Coleman said in a statement Saturday that Australia had still been considering the 18-year-old's asylum claim and that her safety had always been his government's primary concern.


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