Canada News Agency

Canadian PM confirms Saudi asylum seeker coming to Canada

Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is seen before departing from Thailand at Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, Thailand, Jan. 11, 2019. (Thailand Immigration Police via REUTERS) 
OTTAWA, Jan. 11 -- Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed that a Saudi asylum seeker, who reportedly fled her family over abuse and barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel last week, is on her way to Canada, local media reported Friday.
Trudeau said that Canadian officials have been closely following the case of the 18-year-old Saudi woman named Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) had asked Canada to accept her as a refugee before Canada accepted that request, CTV said.
On Wednesday, Canada signaled that it would be open to accepting Qunun, who had asked Canada for help via her Twitter account. Previously, several countries including Canada and Australia were in talks with the United Nations refugee agency in Bangkok on accepting Qunun.
Qunun grabbed global attention after she sent out pleas for help via social media in Bangkok last Saturday.
Upon arriving at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport Saturday night, Qunun said she was met by a man whom she identified at various times. The man took her passport and said he would help her gain entry to Thailand.
When the man returned about an hour later with a few other people, they said they knew she ran away and her family wanted her back to Saudi Arabia. She was sent to a hotel room and told she would be put on a Monday morning flight to Kuwait.
Qunun then tweeted for help, saying of being in "real danger" if forced to return to her family in Saudi Arabia and might be killed. She told the BBC that she had renounced Islam and was fearful of her father's retaliation.
She was allowed to enter Thailand temporarily under the protection of the UN refugee agency, which is expected to take about 5 to 7 days to study her case and her claim for asylum.
Her father has reportedly denied physically abusing her or trying to force her into an arranged marriage. He said he wants Qunun back but respects her decision.
The Canada-Saudi Arabia relations have soured after a diplomatic row which was sparked by the Canadian government's call for the immediate release of Saudi blogger Raif Badawi and his sister Samar via Twitter on Aug. 5, 2018.
In response, Saudi Arabia accused Canada of interfering in its internal affairs and expelled the Canadian ambassador to Saudi Arabia and recalled its own ambassador from Ottawa.