Saudi teen Alqunun leaves Thailand for Canada to seek asylum

Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne will be meeting senior officials in Thailand

Sophie McNeill, a reporter with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation who got in contact with Alqunun while she was stuck in the airport hotel room and has kept in touch with her, said Friday in a Twitter posting that Alqunun "is safe and fine".

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is a genuine refugee - unlike the multitudes of economic migrants that flooded Europe.

The Tweet read, '18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun fled Saudi Arabia as she said her family would kill her for choosing to leave Islam - do you respect her decision?'

The source, who was not authorized to speak about Canada's role in granting Ms.al-Qunun asylum, said the government would not make any public comment until it was assured that she was safely in Canada.

She was on her way to Australia when she was stopped by Thai authorities. She later told reporters Australia was assessing Alqunun's request for resettlement, but there was no specific timeframe.

The developments come after the teenager, who will be flying from Bangkok to Seoul before taking a connecting flight to Canada, was given refugee status by the United Nations high commissioner for refugees on Wednesday.

Still Tamara Wood, a lecturer in forced migration at the University of New South Wales, said the speed with which her case is being treated appears quick, but "not unprecedented".

"Yes, Australian has granted her asylum, but we are waiting to hear where exactly she is going", immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn confirmed to CNN.

Police Chief Surachate Hakparn says the 18-year-old woman, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, is leaving on a flight late Friday evening.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne speaks to the press at the Australian embassy in Bangkok, Thailand, January 10, 2019.

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After grabbing worldwide attention with dramatic posts on social media in which she said she feared for her safety if made to return home to her family, Alqunun eventually was placed in the care of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees as her bid for refugee status was considered.

Alqunun had previously said on Twitter that she wished to seek refuge in Australia. "We are, as I've said, very concerned about his detention, very concerned about any potential for return of Mr.al-Araibi to Bahrain". He was granted refugee status by Australia in 2017.

Al-Araibi, who now plays for Melbourne's Pascoe Vale Football Club, has been publicly critical of the Bahrain royal family's alleged involvement in sports scandals, which puts him at risk of punishment by the Bahraini government.

He is wanted in Bahrain on charges linked to rioting, which he denies.

Her father travelled to Thailand and denied mistreating her but she refused to see him during his trip.

Thailand initially said it would deport her at the request of Saudi embassy officials, barring her from travelling on to Australia where Ms Qunun said she had meant to claim asylum.

But he wondered why the same treatment had not been afforded to al-Araibi.

Graham Thom, refugee coordinator at Amnesty International Australia, said the spotlight was not just on Bangkok, but on Asean, which Thailand was set to become chair of this year.

Payne is also expected to discuss the case of a Bahraini footballer with Australian asylum status who has been jailed in Thailand and faces extradition back to Bahrain.

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