Younger Saudi asylum-seeker arrives in Canada to official welcome

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Young Saudi asylum-seeker arrives in Canada to official welcome
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AFP / Lars Hagberg
Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun (C) is welcomed by Canadian Minister for Overseas Affairs Chrystia Freeland (R) as she arrives at Pearson Worldwide airport in Toronto, Ontario, on January 12, 2019

A younger Saudi lady who induced a sensation by defying her household and in search of asylum overseas was welcomed with open arms in Toronto Saturday on the finish of an exhausting worldwide odyssey.

Overseas Minister Chrystia Freeland greeted Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, after she landed in Toronto, carrying a blue ball cap and a grey hoodie emblazoned in crimson with the phrase “CANADA.”

Smiling broadly, she posed for photographers with Freeland at her facet, however made no assertion.

“She had a reasonably lengthy journey and is exhausted and prefers to not take questions for the second,” Freeland stated.

Qunun captured the world’s consideration with a path of Twitter posts that ignited a #SaveRahaf motion as she fled what she stated was an abusive household in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia.

Thai authorities backed down on an try to deport her after she arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait every week in the past, turning her over to the US’s refugee company as a substitute.

Then on Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the shock announcement that Canada would take her in.

The transfer is bound to additional pressure Canada’s relations with the dominion. That relationship went sideways final August over Ottawa’s rights criticism of Saudi Arabia, prompting Riyadh to expel the Canadian ambassador and sever all commerce and funding ties in protest.

Canada additionally sparked fury in Riyadh by demanding the “speedy launch” of jailed rights campaigners, together with Samar Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, whose household lives in Quebec.

Qunun’s try to flee Saudi Arabia was embraced by rights teams as a beacon of defiance towards repression.

-‘Precarious state of affairs’-

AFP / Lars Hagberg
Saudi teenager Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun arrives at Pearson Worldwide airport in Toronto, Ontario, on January 12, 2019

“Ms. al-Qunun’s plight has captured the world’s consideration over the previous few days, offering a glimpse into the precarious state of affairs of tens of millions of refugees worldwide,” stated Filippo Grandi, the UN Excessive Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

“Refugee safety in the present day is usually beneath risk and can’t at all times be assured, however on this occasion worldwide refugee regulation and overriding values of humanity have prevailed.”

Raif Badawi’s spouse Ensaf Haidar additionally praised Canada, calling Freeland on Twitter “the actual hero” behind efforts to stop Qunun’s repatriation to Saudi Arabia.

Qunun alleged that she was abused by her household — who deny the allegations — and rights teams additionally stated she had renounced Islam, risking prosecution in Saudi Arabia.

Qunun first stated she was aiming for Australia, the place officers had advised they might give severe consideration to her declare for asylum, which was endorsed as authentic by the UNHCR on Wednesday.

However late Friday Thailand’s immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn stated a smiling and cheerful Rahaf was certain for Toronto and had left on a flight after 11pm (1600 GMT).

“She selected Canada … (and) Canada stated it can settle for her,” Surachate instructed reporters at Bangkok’s primary airport.

“She is secure now and has good bodily and psychological well being. She is completely happy.”

Qunun left from the identical airport the place her quest for asylum started in a swift-moving course of that defied most norms.

– Demise threats –

Thai Immigration Bureau/AFP/File / Handout
On this handout picture taken on January 7, 2019 by the Thai Immigration Bureau, 18-year-old Saudi lady Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun (C) is being escorted by a Thai immigration officer (R) and UN refugee company officers in Bangkok

On Friday afternoon Qunun posted a cryptic tweet on her profile saying, “I’ve some excellent news and a few unhealthy information.” Her account was deactivated shortly afterward in response to demise threats she had confronted, her buddies stated.

However she was again on-line later within the day, tweeting: “I want to thanks folks for supporting me and saving my life. Really I’ve by no means dreamed of this love and help.”

Qunun’s skillful use of Twitter noticed her amass tens of 1000’s of followers inside every week, highlighting her plight at a time when Saudi Arabia’s human rights document is beneath heavy scrutiny following the homicide of journalist Jamal Khashoggi final yr.

Her deployment of social media allowed her to keep away from the destiny of numerous different refugees who’re quietly despatched again house or left to languish in Bangkok detention facilities.

She refused to see her father, who traveled to Thailand and expressed opposition to her resettlement.

Surachate stated her father and brother had been because of return house on a flight within the early hours of Saturday.

Though Qunun’s asylum case moved rapidly, the ultimate maneuvers that led to her flight to Canada stay largely a thriller.

Surachate had instructed reporters earlier Friday that “two or three” nations had been prepared to supply her asylum.

The Southeast Asian nation just isn’t a signatory to a conference on refugees, and asylum seekers have to be referred to a 3rd nation.



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