The Australian government on Wednesday said it was considering granting visa to an 18-year-old Saudi woman after the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees found that she is a genuine refugee, the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, who arrived in Bangkok from Kuwait on Saturday, has claimed that her family will kill her if she is forcibly returned. She told Reuters on Monday that she fled Kuwait during a family visit there, and plans to travel to Australia to seek asylum.
“The Department of Home Affairs will consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals,” the Australian government said in a statement. “The government will be making no further comment on this matter.”
Qunun was detained after getting off the plane in Bangkok as her family had filed a missing person report, and her passport was confiscated. When asked why she was fleeing her family, Qunun said, “Physical, emotional and verbal abuse and being imprisoned inside the house for months. They threaten to kill me and prevent me from continuing my education.”
Thai immigration officials had initially planned to put Qunun on a flight back to Kuwait, but decided against it after her online pleas drew international attention.
The case has drawn attention to Saudi Arabia’s strict social rules, including one that requires women to have the permission of a “male guardian” to travel. According to rights groups, this can trap women and girls who have abusive families.