Runaway Saudi Teenager Leaves Thailand for Canada After Being Granted Asylum

Al-Qunun's flight came after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed late Friday that his country had given the teenager asylum

Eighteen-year-old Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed al-Qanun shaking hands with a Thai immigration officer at Suvarnabhumi international airport in Bangkok, on January 7, 2019.
AFP

Runaway Saudi teenager Rahaf al-Qunun left Thailand late Friday for Canada where she has been given asylum, Thai immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters.

"UNHCR has coordinated with the Canadian authorities to send her there. She just left on the 11.15 pm (1615 GMT) flight to Toronto," Surachate said, referring to the UN Refugee Agency.

"It's her wish to go to Canada. The matter is now ended in Thailand," he added. The 18-year-old will be placed under the custody of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Canada once she lands, according to Surachate.

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Her father and brother, who had flown to Bangkok to see her and protested her UNHCR resettlement process, also travelled home to Saudi Arabia late Friday after their attempt failed, the policeman said.

Al-Qunun's flight came after Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau confirmed late Friday that his country had given the teenager asylum.

"The [UN High Commissioner for Refugees] has made a request of Canada that we accept al-Qunun as a refugee, and we have accepted the UN's request that we grant her asylum," Trudeau told reporters in Regina, Saskatchewan.

Al-Qunun, who says she is fleeing domestic abuse in Saudi Arabia, had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum.

But she was stopped by Thai immigration authorities after landing at a Bangkok airport late Saturday.

Al-Qunun's case captivated the world after she took to social media asking for help as she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room.