A Saudi teenager who fled her “abusive” family and was detained in Bangkok while she tried to get to Australia appears to be heading to Canada instead.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun captured international attention when she posted on social media and pleaded with fellow passengers to hear her case for asylum. The 18-year-old renounced Islam and said she feared she would be killed for such an action if she was returned to Saudi Arabia.
Ms al-Qunun’s case was referred to Australia by the United Nations’ High Commission for Refugees who decided she was a genuine refugee.
However, The Australian is reporting tonight the UNHCR had withdrawn its referral to this country, and Ms al-Qunun has said Canada was her first choice for a new home.
The news follows hours of confusion where it was unclear what country the 18-year-old would end up in. The Daily Mail reported she had already been granted resettlement in Australia - something The Australian said had been denied by government sources.
“I survived from death,” she said in an interview earlier on Friday, reflecting that since the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate in Instabul she has feared for her own life.
“I’m scared to be killed just like him.”
In the interview Ms al-Qunun responded to claims she had manipulated social media to be granted asylum.
“I want life. I want to be independent,” she said. “How can they say this just because I do something they don’t like?”
“I want to become a strong woman, I want freedom of expression, of religion and politics.
“I want to live a normal life.”
The Department of Home Affairs has not confirmed that Ms al-Qunun will be resettled in Australia.
A department spokesman said: “The UNHCR has referred Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun to Australia for consideration for refugee resettlement.
“The Department of Home Affairs will consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals.
“The Government will be making no further comment on this matter.”
Yesterday Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said there would be no “special treatment” in the assessment of Ms al-Qunun’s case.
“Nobody wants to see a young girl in distress and she has obviously now found a safe haven in Thailand,” Mr Dutton said.