Thai police won’t deport Saudi woman seeking asylum


BANGKOK (AP) — The head of Thailand’s immigration police said Monday that an 18-year-old Saudi woman who was stopped in Bangkok as she was trying to travel to Australia for asylum to escape alleged abuse by her family will not be sent anywhere against her wishes.

The woman, Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, was allowed to temporarily enter Thailand under the protection of the U.N. refugee agency, which was expected to take at least five to seven days to evaluate her case and claims for asylum status.

Thai immigration police released photos of Alqunun after she left the room at a Bangkok airport hotel where she had been holed up. Where she would stay in the Thai capital was not announced.

Alqunun had stayed in the room while sending out desperate pleas for help over social media. She began posting on Twitter late Saturday after her passport was taken away when she arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait.

The agreement allowing her to leave the airport came after officials from the U.N. refugee agency, known as UNHCR, met with Thai immigration police chief Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, and then with Alqunun.

UNHCR declined to release any details of its meeting with Alqunun, but its representative in Thailand, Giuseppe De Vincentiis, noted “a good spirit of collaboration so far” with Thai officials.

According to Surachate, Alqunun’s father was due to arrive in Bangkok on Monday night, and officials would then see if the young woman was willing to depart with him. He said the woman would be asked if she was willing to meet with her father.

“As of now, she does not wish to go back and we will not force her. She won’t be sent anywhere tonight,” Surachate said at one of several news conferences at the airport.

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