Countries line up to offer runaway Saudi teen a new life

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By Associated Press

BANGKOK — Several countries including Canada and Australia are in talks with the U.N. refugee agency to accept a Saudi asylum-seeker who fled alleged abuse from her family, Thai police said Friday.

Thailand’s immigration police chief, Surachate Hakparn, told reporters the U.N. was accelerating the case, though he gave no indication of when the process would be complete.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun was stopped at a Bangkok airport on Saturday by Thai immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport. While barricading herself in an airport hotel room, the 18-year-old launched a social media campaign that drew global attention to her case and enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of U.N. officials.

Jan. 7, 201901:17

The U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees granted her refugee status on Wednesday.

Alqunun’s case has highlighted the cause of women’s rights in Saudi Arabia. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home. Human rights activists say many similar cases have gone unreported.

Alqunun has said on her Twitter account that she wishes to seek refuge in Australia.

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