Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 17 September 2019

UNHCR meets Saudi teenager fleeing family in Bangkok airport

Thai authorities attempted to deport Rahaf Alqunun back to Kuwait on Monday morning

Rahaf alQunun, a Saudi woman who claims to be fleeing her country and family, speaks in a room in Bangkok, Thailand. @rahaf84427714/via Reuters
Rahaf alQunun, a Saudi woman who claims to be fleeing her country and family, speaks in a room in Bangkok, Thailand. @rahaf84427714/via Reuters

Representatives of the UN refugee agency have met with an 18-year old Saudi Arabian woman who is trying to prevent officials at Bangkok airport deporting her back to her family after fleeing while on holiday in Kuwait.

Thai authorities had planned to deport Rahaf Alqunun on a Kuwait Airways flight to Kuwait City on Monday morning but the flight took off without her after she locked herself in her hotel room at Bangkok International Airport. She posted regular updates about her situation on social media calling for assistance from international agencies, which were shared thousands of times.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry said she was fleeing violence from her family.

Ms Alqunun posted photos on her Twitter account that appeared to show her sitting against a barricade of furniture at the door of a hotel room.

According to Melissa Fleming, UNHCR Chief of Communications, said that she could not provide the details on the outcome of the meeting with Ms Alqunun but said Thai authorities had given the UN refugee agency access.

UNHCR officials met with Ms Alqunun at Bangkok airport on Monday to "assess her need for international refugee protection and find an immediate solution to her situation". Ms Alqunun said she feared for her safety if she was returned to her family.

The head of Thailand’s Immigration Bureau said Ms Alqunun will not be forcibly deported against her will.

“If she does not want to leave, we will not force her," Lt Gen Surachate Hakparntold told reporters at a press conference at Bangkok International Airport on Monday.

On Saturday, Ms Alqunun claimed Thai immigration officials and a representative from the Saudi embassy intercepted her and confiscated her passport on arrival at the airport on Sunday, and prevented her from continuing her journey saying she was headed to Australia to claim asylum.

Thai officials said she did not have the requisite documents for a visa upon her arrival into the country. The Saudi Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it did not have the authority to stop her at the airport.

The Saudi Foreign Ministry added that she was stopped at Bangkok airport because she did not have a return reservation.

It added that the Kingdom's embassy in Thailand had not impounded her passport and that local authorities would deport the girl to Kuwait where her family live.

Updated: January 7, 2019 05:36 PM

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