BANGKOK — Australia says it is considering granting a runaway Saudi teenager refugee resettlement after the United Nations on Wednesday deemed her a refugee.
The Department of Home Affairs confirmed in a statement that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had referred 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to Australia for consideration for refugee settlement.
Alqunun arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait on Saturday, and planned to continue to Australia, for which she held a tourist visa. But after being detained by Thai authorities, she refused to board a flight back to Kuwait, barricading herself in a hotel room.
After publicizing her case via social media, saying she feared for her safety if made to return home to her family, she was placed in the care of U.N. refugee agency workers as her bid for refugee status was considered. This resulted in her referral to Australia on Wednesday afternoon.
Australia's Home Affairs Department said it would "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals," referring to the U.N. refugee agency.
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Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, said Australia's minister for foreign affairs was due to visit Bangkok on Thursday. "Will she take Rahaf back with her?" he tweeted on Wednesday.
Thai officials earlier said that Alqunun was stopped by authorities in Bangkok because she did not have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist, which appeared to have raised a red flag about the reasons for her trip.