Father of Saudi teen asylum seeker in Thailand, seeks meeting
The father of an 18-year-old Saudi woman asylum seeker who fled to Thailand saying she feared her family would kill her, has arrived in Bangkok and wants to meet his daughter, Thailand’s immigration chief said on Tuesday, Trend reports referring to Reuters.
But Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun’s father and brother would have to wait and see whether the UN refugee agency would allow them to see her, immigration chief Surachate Hakpan said.
“The father and brother want to go and talk to Rahaf but the U.N. will need to approve such talk,” Surachate told reporters.
The U.N. refugee agency on Tuesday said it was investigating Qunun’s case after she fled to Thailand saying she feared her family would kill her if she were sent back to Saudi Arabia.
Activists are concerned about what Saudi Arabia will do after Thai authorities reversed a decision to expel her and allowed Qunun to enter the country under the care of the UNHCR.
“The father is now here in Thailand and that’s a source of concern,” Phil Robertson, Human Rights Watch’s deputy director for Asia, told Reuters.
Qunun is staying in a Bangkok hotel while the UNHCR processes her application for refugee status, before she can seek asylum in a third country.
UNHCR staff were interviewing her on Tuesday after meeting her the day before.
“It could take several days to process the case and determine next steps,” UNHCR’s Thailand representative Giuseppe de Vincentiis said in a statement.
“We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back (Qunun) against her will and are extending protection to her,” he said.
The case has drawn new global attention to Saudi Arabia’s strict social rules, including a requirement that women have the permission of a male “guardian” to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families.
It comes at a time when Riyadh is facing unusually intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and over the humanitarian consequences of its war in Yemen.