Saudi woman seeking asylum arrives in Canada

Saudi woman seeking asylum arrives in Canada

A top Thai immigration official said earlier Friday that Alqunun had been granted asylum in Canada, and had boarded a flight for Toronto with a "smiling face". "And she is now going to go to her new home".

Women in Saudi Arabia are subjected to many restrictions, including on their freedom of movement.

Australian media reported that UNHCR had withdrawn its referral for Alqunon to be resettled in Australia because Canberra was taking too long to decide on her asylum.

"Canada has been unequivocal that we will always stand up for human rights and women's rights around the world", Trudeau told reporters, BBC News reported. Human Rights Watch said Alqunun had been detained in the flight transit zone at Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi Airport on January 5 while en route from Kuwait to Australia, where she had meant to apply for asylum. She had requested for a meeting with representatives of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, in order to seek asylum as she was fleeing her abusive family.

She deleted her entire contentious Twitter account hours before departure for Canada.

Canadian authorities said they could not confirm that Qunun had been granted asylum in Canada.

But Al-Qunun barricaded herself in a Thai hotel room at the airport and then embarked on a social media quest, telling of her situation and her wish to be given asylum in another country.

UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said the Saudi teenager's plight had highlighted the precarious situation faced by millions of refugees worldwide.

Officials had heavily hinted that the teenager was bound for Australia where she had originally meant to seek asylum. Relations between Ottawa and Riyadh have been tense after Canada demanded the immediate release of jailed rights activists a year ago, infuriating Saudi Arabia who retaliated by freezing new trade with Ottawa.

Surachate had told reporters earlier Friday that "two or three" countries were ready to offer her asylum. Surachate said the father - whose name has not been released - denied physically abusing Qunun or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were among the reasons she gave for her flight.

Alqunun's father and brother denied any allegations of abuse.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, cited Alqunun's "courage and perseverance".

Trudeau brushed off a question as to whether Canada's move might make it harder to fix ties with Saudi Arabia. "He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes", Surachate said.

Saudi Arabia responded by kicking out the Canadian ambassador, recalling the Saudi ambassador to Canada and all Saudi students studying in the country, and suspending flights as well as "all new businesses transactions and investments linked with Canada".

The Twitter hashtag #SaveRahaf ensued, and a photograph of her behind a door barricaded with a mattress was seen around the world.

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