Australia Hails Canada’s Decision To Offer Asylum To Saudi Teen


Australia has welcomed the news that a Saudi teen who fled to Thailand to escape her allegedly abusive family has been granted entry on refugee status by Canada. Australia has also explained its own handling of the matter.

The teen, Rahaf Al-Qunun, left Bangkok for Toronto on Friday after a day of confusion over where she would be granted asylum. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau later told reporters his nation had accepted the request made by the UN refugee agency, UNHCR,

Australian Immigration Minister David Coleman said in a statement Saturday that Australia had still been considering the 18-year-old's asylum claim.

"The safety of Ms. Al-Qunun has always been the Australian government's primary concern, and we have been working with the UNHCR and international partners to ensure her claim is assessed appropriately," he said.

"At the time of the UNHCR's referral to Canada on January 11, the assessment of Ms. Al-Qunun's case by Australian officials was progressing."

Thailand's immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn had initially told the media on Friday that Qunun had been offered asylum by both Australia and Canada. But he later requested that the statement be retracted.

"Australia has one of the most generous humanitarian programs in the world, and all applications are considered in accordance with Australian law and procedures," Coleman's statement said. "We wish Ms Al-Qunun all the best for her future in Canada."

It's unclear exactly when Qunun will arrive in Canada.

The country's decision to offer asylum to Qunun may worsen relations with Saudi Arabia. The ties between the two plummeted last summer after officials in Ottawa accused the kingdom of human rights violations and demanded the release of imprisoned activists.

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