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Saudi woman, who fled the family, is granted refugee status

BANGKOK – A young woman from Saudi Arabia who barricaded herself in a hotel room in Bangkok to prevent deportation was recognized as a refugee by the UN refugee agency on Wednesday, Australian officials said, paving the way for An asylum application Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, 18, said she was afraid her relatives would kill her if she was forced to return to them. She escaped from her family in Kuwait on Saturday by taking a flight to Bangkok and planning to fly to Australia and apply for asylum. However, the Thai immigration officials prevented them from entering the country and threatened to deport them.

After a 48-hour violent shutdown that was persecuted worldwide on social media, the Thai Immigration Bureau agreed to leave the airport under the protection of the United Nations Agency, also known as UNHCR.

After the agency has granted refugee status, the next step will be to seek a country that agrees to receive it urgently. The Australian Interior Ministry said Wednesday that the United Nations had referred the case of Ms. Alqunun to refugee settlements in Australia.

"Surprisingly, Rahaf's original hope can come true after Canberra found that the United Nations had decided she was fleeing and referred her to Australia for resettlement," said Phil Robertson, Asia's Deputy Asia Director and a senior advocate for Ms. Alqunun. "Two days ago, she was barricaded in a hotel room struggling for her life, and now we see this wonderful and amazing turnaround."

"The important thing is that she be brought to safety, so Australia has to move really fast

The Thai media reported on Tuesday that their father had arrived in Bangkok, where he met representatives of the refugee agency, but Ms. Alqunun refused to see him.

Officials The United Nations Refugee Agency could not be reached for comment, saying they could not discuss isolated cases.

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