Rahaf al-Qunun: Dad of Saudi refugee arrives in Bangkok Thailand

Rahaf al-Qunun: Dad of Saudi refugee arrives in Bangkok Thailand

She says her passport has now been returned to her, after it was reportedly seized by a Saudi diplomat when she flew into Thailand.

An 18-year-old girl who locked herself in a Thai hotel room to keep from being sent back to her allegedly abusive family has been allowed to stay in the country to meet with United Nations refugee officials.

The woman earlier claimed asylum, fearing that she will be killed if expelled to her home country.

"The girl has violated immigration and residency laws because she does not have a return ticket or a hotel reservation, and she does not have a tourism program", the statement read.

The Australian Government says it is monitoring the case closely."The claims made by Ms Al-Qunun that she may be harmed if returned to Saudi Arabia are deeply concerning".

"Any application by Ms Alqunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded", a Home Affairs official told AFP news agency.

At 3.30pm on Monday, Thailand's immigration chief Surachate Hakparn held a press conference at the airport for dozens of Thai and worldwide media representatives gathered in the transit area.

But who is Rahaf al-Qunun and why is her life in danger?

Later she sent me a two-word appeal on a Twitter direct message, saying "Hi Help!"

"The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has not asked for her extradition".

"She is now under the sovereignty of Thailand; no-one and no embassy can force her to go anywhere", he said.

"She is going to be found as a refugee because she has made very clear that she has renounced Islam ..."

Thailand's immigration police chief met Tuesday with officials from the Saudi Embassy in Bangkok, as Saudi Arabia tried to distance itself from accusations that it attempted to block a young woman's effort to flee from her family and seek asylum overseas.

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Ms Qunun's family could not be reached to respond to her allegations of abuse.

On Twitter, Rahaf has been posting updates in her situation regularly.

Global pressure has mounted on Thai authorities to keep Alqunun safe and to ensure she isn't forcibly returned to the Saudi kingdom, which has been subject to worldwide condemnation over the killing of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.

She said she would be imprisoned or worse if she was sent back to Saudi Arabia, telling Human Rights Watch she was fleeing abuse from her family, including beatings and death threats from male relatives, who forced her to remain in her room for six months for cutting her hair. "I'm shouting out for help of humanity", she tweeted.

In Geneva, UNHCR spokesman Babar Baloch told reporters the process looking into Qunun's asylum claim had started and could take several days.

In a short press release distributed to media outside its embassy in Bangkok Tuesday, the Saudi government said it had not demanded her deportation, adding the case is a "family affair", but under the "care and attention" of the embassy.

"Due to privacy concerns, we can not comment on a specific case without signed consent", said Nancy Caron, a spokeswoman for Immigration Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

In a statement posted on social media, Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said that the Thai government and UNHCR should deny the request of Alqunun's father and brother to meet her.

Photos released on Monday night by immigration police showed Ms Alqunun with Thai and United Nations officials after she left the airport transit hotel room where she had been holed up over the weekend, sending her pleas for help on her Twitter account. She posted her passport details on Twitter to confirm her identity.

Thai immigration chief Surachet Hakparn, speaking to journalists outside the Saudi Embassy after meeting with Saudi officials in Bangkok on Tuesday, said officials are concerned about Qunun's safety and well-being.

She said she had asserted her independence, but had been forced to pray and wear a hijab and alleged she had been beaten by her brother.

The incident comes as Saudi Arabia faces intense scrutiny over the shocking murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi past year, which has renewed criticism of the kingdom's rights record.

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