Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Friday confirmed his country had granted asylum to an 18-year-old Saudi woman who had fled to Thailand claiming she feared for her life with her family back home, Reuters reported.
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.
Trudeau said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees had asked Canada to take in al-Qunun after ascertaining that she is a genuine refugee. “Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world, and I can confirm that we have accepted the UN’s request,” Trudeau said.
“Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world,” he added.
The UN welcomed the decision and also acknowledged Thailand had given al-Qunun temporary refuge. “Ms al-Qunun’s plight has captured the world’s attention over the past few days, providing a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi.
An unidentified Bangkok airport official confirmed that al-Qunun had left Bangkok for South Korea’s Seoul on Friday night aboard a Korean Air flight. She will board a connecting flight to Toronto from Seoul’s Incheon airport and is expected to arrive in Canada on Saturday morning.
Al-Qunun was detained after getting off the plane in Bangkok as her family had filed a missing person report, and her passport was confiscated. The teenager said she had fled Saudi Arabia after “physical, emotional and verbal abuse”. She was allegedly imprisoned inside her house for months, with her family threatening to kill her and prevent her from continuing her education.
Thai immigration officials had initially planned to put al-Qunun on a flight back to Kuwait, but decided against it after her online pleas drew international attention.