TORONTO — Drained however smiling, an 18-year-old Saudi lady who mentioned she feared dying if deported again dwelling arrived Saturday in Canada, which provided her asylum in a case that attracted international consideration after she mounted a social media marketing campaign.
“That is Rahaf Alqunun, a really courageous new Canadian,” Overseas Minister Chrystia Freeland mentioned 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 resort 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 attempting to hunt asylum overseas in recent times and returned dwelling.
Freeland mentioned Alqunun most popular to not take questions on Saturday.
“It was a pleasure for me this morning to welcome her to her new dwelling,” Freeland mentioned. “She is clearly very drained after an extended journey and she or he most popular to go and get settled. Nevertheless it was Rahaf’s alternative to return out and say good day to Canadians. She wished Canadians to see that she’s right here, that she’s nicely and that she’s very completely satisfied to be in her new dwelling.”
Freeland mentioned Alqunun commented in regards to 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 response to Thai immigration Police Chief Surachate Hakparn. Alqunun tweeted two footage from her airplane seat — one with what seems to be a glass of wine and her passport and one other holding her passport whereas on the airplane with the hashtag “I did it” and the emojis exhibiting airplane, hearts and wine glass.
Canada’s determination to grant her asylum may 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 assist for ladies’s proper activists who had been arrested. The Saudis additionally bought Canadian investments and ordered their residents finding out in Canada to depart.
No nation, together with the U.S., spoke out publicly in assist of Canada in that spat with the Saudis. Freeland didn’t handle what Alqunun’s case would imply to Saudi relations.
“Canada believes very strongly in standing up for human rights all through the world. We consider very strongly that girls’s rights are human rights,” Freeland mentioned.
There was no rapid Saudi authorities response, nor any point out of her arrival in state media.
Freeland mentioned the U.N. refugee company discovered she was in harmful state of affairs in Thailand and that Canada is glad they had been in a position to act rapidly 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 short actions over the previous week of the federal government of Thailand in offering non permanent refuge and facilitating refugee standing dedication by UNHCR, and of the federal government of Canada in providing emergency resettlement to Ms. Alqunun and arranging her journey had been key to the profitable decision of this case,” the company mentioned in a press release.
A number of different international locations, together with Australia, had been in talks with the U.N.’s refugee company to simply accept Alqunun, Surachate mentioned.
“She selected Canada. It’s her private determination,” he mentioned.
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 resolve on her asylum.
“When referring circumstances with particular vulnerabilities who want rapid resettlement, we connect nice significance to the pace at which international locations think about and course of circumstances,” a UNHCR spokesperson in Bangkok advised The Related Press in an electronic mail reply on situation of anonymity as a result of the individual wasn’t licensed 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 resort room the place he social media marketing campaign bought sufficient public and diplomatic assist that Thai officers admitted her briefly below the safety of U.N. officers, who granted her refugee standing Wednesday.
Surachate mentioned her father — whose identify has not been launched — denied bodily abusing Alqunun or attempting to pressure her into an organized marriage, which had been among the many causes she gave for her flight. He mentioned Alqunun’s father wished his daughter again however revered her determination.
“He has 10 youngsters. He mentioned the daughter would possibly really feel uncared for generally,” Surachate mentioned.
Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, cited Alqunun’s “braveness and perseverance.”
“That is a lot a victory for everybody who cares about respecting and selling ladies’s rights, valuing the independence of youth to forge their very own manner, and demanding governments function within the mild and never darkness,” he mentioned in a press release.
Related Press author Tassanee Vejpongsa in Bangkok contributed to this report.
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