By ROB GILLIES | Related Press
TORONTO — Drained however smiling, an 18-year-old Saudi lady who stated she feared demise if deported again home arrived Saturday in Canada, which provided her asylum in a case that attracted international consideration after she mounted a social media marketing campaign.
“This is Rahaf Alqunun, a very brave new Canadian,” Overseas Minister Chrystia Freeland stated arm-in-arm with the Saudi lady in Toronto’s airport.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun smiled broadly as she exited an airport arrival door sporting a Canada zipper hoodie and a U.N. Excessive Commissioner for Refugees hat, capping a dramatic week that noticed her flee her household whereas visiting Kuwait and earlier than flying to Bangkok. From there, she barricaded herself in an airport lodge to keep away from deportation and tweeted about her state of affairs.
On Friday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau introduced that Canada would settle for Alqunun as a refugee. Her state of affairs has highlighted the reason for ladies’s rights in Saudi Arabia, the place a number of ladies fleeing abuse by their households have been caught making an attempt to hunt asylum overseas in current years and returned home.
Freeland stated Alqunun most popular to not take questions on Saturday.
“It was a pleasure for me this morning to welcome her to her new home,” Freeland stated. “She is obviously very tired after a long journey and she preferred to go and get settled. But it was Rahaf’s choice to come out and say hello to Canadians. She wanted Canadians to see that she’s here, that she’s well and that she’s very happy to be in her new home.”
Freeland stated Alqunun commented concerning the chilly climate and she or he responded that it will get hotter in Canada.
Alqunun flew to Toronto by way of Seoul, South Korea, in line with Thai immigration Police Chief Surachate Hakparn. Alqunun tweeted two footage from her aircraft seat — one with what seems to be a glass of wine and her passport and one other holding her passport whereas on the aircraft with the hashtag “I did it” and the emojis displaying aircraft, hearts and wine glass.
Canada’s choice to grant her asylum might additional upset the nation’s relations with Saudi Arabia.
In August, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador to the dominion and withdrew its personal ambassador after Canada’s Overseas Ministry tweeted help for ladies’s proper activists who had been arrested. The Saudis additionally bought Canadian investments and ordered their residents learning in Canada to go away.
No nation, together with the U.S., spoke out publicly in help of Canada in that spat with the Saudis. Freeland didn’t tackle what Alqunun’s case would imply to Saudi relations.
“Canada believes very strongly in standing up for human rights throughout the world. We believe very strongly that women’s rights are human rights,” Freeland stated.
There was no fast Saudi authorities response, nor any point out of her arrival in state media.
Freeland stated the U.N. refugee company discovered she was in harmful state of affairs in Thailand and that Canada is glad they have been capable of act shortly to supply her refuge.
Alqunun’s father arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, however his daughter refused to satisfy with him.
The workplace of the U.N. Excessive Commissioner for Refugees welcomed Canada’s determination.
“The quick actions over the past week of the government of Thailand in providing temporary refuge and facilitating refugee status determination by UNHCR, and of the government of Canada in offering emergency resettlement to Ms. Alqunun and arranging her travel were key to the successful resolution of this case,” the company stated in a press release.
A number of different nations, together with Australia, had been in talks with the U.N.’s refugee company to simply accept Alqunun, Surachate stated.
“She chose Canada. It’s her personal decision,” he stated.
Australian media reported that UNHCR had withdrawn its referral for Alqunon to be resettled in Australia as a result of Canberra was taking too lengthy to determine on her asylum.
“When referring cases with specific vulnerabilities who need immediate resettlement, we attach great importance to the speed at which countries consider and process cases,” a UNHCR spokesperson in Bangkok advised The Related Press in an e mail reply on situation of anonymity as a result of the individual wasn’t approved to debate the case publicly.
Canada’s ambassador had seen her off on the airport, the place Alqunun thanked everybody for serving to her. She plans to start out studying extra English, although she already speaks it greater than passably.
Alqunun was stopped Jan. 5 at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport by immigration police who denied her entry and seized her passport.
She barricaded herself in an airport lodge room the place he social media marketing campaign acquired sufficient public and diplomatic help that Thai officers admitted her briefly beneath the safety of U.N. officers, who granted her refugee standing Wednesday.
Surachate stated her father — whose identify has not been launched — denied bodily abusing Alqunun or making an attempt to pressure her into an organized marriage, which have been among the many causes she gave for her flight. He stated Alqunun’s father needed his daughter again however revered her choice.
“He has 10 children. He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes,” Surachate stated.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, cited Alqunun’s “courage and perseverance.”
“This is so much a victory for everyone who cares about respecting and promoting women’s rights, valuing the independence of youth to forge their own way, and demanding governments operate in the light and not darkness,” he stated in a press release.
Related Press author Tassanee Vejpongsa in Bangkok contributed to this report.