News National Confusion reigns over Saudi woman’s asylum status
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Confusion reigns over Saudi woman’s asylum status

saudi woman granted asylum in Canada
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun (right) with an unidentified companion in Bangkok on Friday. Photo: AAP
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An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled alleged abuse by her family to seek a new life overseas has been granted asylum in Canada, according to one report.

But the report is in conflict with other reports that have the young Saudi heading to Australia.

The Australian newspaper reported on Friday night that Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun was heading to Canada. However, the Daily Mail Australia earlier reported she had been granted resettlement in Australia.

Ms al-Qunun told the Daily Mail on Friday she was happy to “start a new life” in Australia and even that she had been provided with an apartment for three months. She reportedly said, though, she didn’t know where that would be.

But The Australian has reported that government sources denied the Daily Mail Australia report that Ms al-Qunun was coming to Australia.

The Australian, meanwhile, also reported the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees withdrew its referral to Australia to take Ms al-Qunun as a refugee.

It claimed Ms al-Qunun had expressed a preference to go to Canada prior to the UNHCR’s withdrawal, meaning the teen is “almost certainly headed for Canada”.

The immigration department chief in Thailand – where she has been staying while her claim is being weighed up – told CNN on Friday that Ms al-Qunun had been granted asylum in Australia.

“Yes, Australia has granted her asylum, but we are waiting to hear where exactly she is going,” Surachate Hakparn said.

Canada had also offered Ms al-Qunun asylum and they were waiting for her decision, he added.

Ms al-Qunun made global headlines after she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Bangkok and began tweeting that her life was in danger if forced to return to Saudi Arabia.

It appears Ms al-Qunun’s Twitter account @rahaf84427714, which amassed thousands of followers during the ordeal, was shut down Friday afternoon.

She had earlier tweeted: “I have some bad news and good news”.

A Twitter user known as Nourah, whom Ms al-Qunun has referred to as a friend, tweeted that the teen “received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account”.

Ms al-Qunun had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum before she was detained by Thai authorities on Sunday.

On Wednesday, the UNHCR granted her refugee status, ahead of a visit by Foreign Minister Marise Payne to Thailand a day later.

Australia was assessing whether to grant Ms al-Qunun asylum and there was “no time frame” for a decision, Ms Payne said on Thursday.

The Department of Home Affairs has been approached for comment.

–with AAP

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