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Saudi teenager who fled family arrives in Canada

The Saudi teenager who fled her “abusive” family to seek asylum abroad has arrived in Canada.

Foreign minister Chrystia Freeland described Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun as a “very brave new Canadian” as they met at Toronto airport.

The 18-year-old used Twitter to help prevent her deportation from Thailand when she was stopped en route to Australia last weekend.

The teenager was fleeing Saudi Arabia and said she feared her relatives would kill her if she was returned to the kingdom.

Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a surprise announcement on Friday that the North American country would take her in.



Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun arrives at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Toronto, Ontario, Canada January 12, 2019




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Video:
Rahaf Alqunun’s flight arrives in Canada as she seeks asylum having fled Saudi Arabia

Mr Trudeau said: “Canada has been unequivocal that we’ll stand up for human rights and women’s rights around the world.

“When the United Nations made a request of us that we grant Alqunun’s asylum, we accepted.”

Officials had heavily-hinted that the teenager was bound for Australia where she had originally intended to seek asylum.

Canada’s move is sure to further strain its relations with the Arab kingdom.

The North American country criticised the rights record of Saudi Arabia in August, prompting Riyadh to expel the Canadian ambassador and sever all trade an investment ties in protest.

Canada also sparked fury in Riyadh by demanding the “immediate release” of jailed rights campaigners, including Samar Badawi, the sister of jailed blogger Raif Badawi, whose family lives in Quebec.



The Prime Minister announced during a round-table the country will accept Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun in Canada and she is on her way to Toronto.




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Video:
Canada accepts Saudi asylum seeker fleeing ‘abusive family’

Ms Alqunun’s attempt to flee Saudi Arabia was embraced by rights groups as a beacon of defiance against repression.

Thai authorities initially threatened to deport her when she arrived in Bangkok after she fled her family during a trip to Kuwait.

Ms Alqunun used furniture to barricade herself in an airport hotel room to avoid being sent back to live with her relatives in Saudi Arabia.

She used her smartphone and Twitter account to force a u-turn from Thai immigration police as her story gained attention around the world.

Ms Alqunun was eventually taken into the care of the UN’s refugee agency.

She had earlier told Human Rights Watch that she was fleeing abuse from her family, and alleged she suffered beatings and death threats from male relatives.

Her relatives deny the allegations.

The teenager is also said to have renounced Islam, which risks prosecution in Saudi Arabia.

Thailand’s immigration police chief Surachate Hakparn said on Friday that a smiling and cheerful Ms Alqunu was bound for Toronto and had left on a flight after 11pm (4pm GMT).

He said: “She chose Canada… Canada said it will accept her.

“She is safe now and has good physical and mental health.

“She is happy.”

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