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'Brave new Canadian:' Runaway Saudi woman reaches new home

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Through Related Press

TORONTO — Drained however smiling, an 18-year-old Saudi runaway who mentioned she feared demise if deported again house arrived Saturday in Canada, which had introduced her asylum in a case that attracted world consideration after she fastened a social media marketing campaign.

“That is Rahaf Alqunun, an excessively courageous new Canadian,” International Minister Chrystia Freeland mentioned arm-in-arm with the Saudi girl in Toronto’s airport.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun smiled extensively as she exited an airport arrival door wearing a Canada zipper hoodie and a U.N. Top Commissioner for Refugees hat, capping a dramatic week that noticed her flee her circle of relatives whilst visiting Kuwait and prior to flying to Bangkok. From there, she barricaded herself in an airport resort to keep away from deportation and tweeted about her scenario.

On Friday, High Minister Justin Trudeau introduced that Canada would settle for Alqunun as a refugee. Her scenario has highlighted the reason for girls’s rights in Saudi Arabia, the place a number of girls fleeing abuse via their households were stuck looking to search asylum in a foreign country lately and returned house.

Freeland mentioned Alqunun most popular to not take questions Saturday.

“It used to be a excitement for me this morning to welcome her to her new house,” Freeland mentioned. “She is clearly very drained after a protracted adventure and she or he most popular to move and get settled. Nevertheless it used to be Rahaf’s selection to come back out and say hi to Canadians. She sought after Canadians to peer that she’s right here, that she’s smartly and that she’s more than happy to be in her new house.”

Freeland mentioned Alqunun commented in regards to the chilly climate and she or he answered that it will get hotter in Canada.

Alqunun flew to Toronto by means of Seoul, South Korea, in step with Thai immigration Police Leader Surachate Hakparn. Alqunun tweeted two photos from her aircraft seat — one with what seems to be a pitcher of wine and her passport and some other keeping her passport whilst at the aircraft with the hashtag “I did it” and the emojis appearing aircraft, hearts and wine glass.

Canada’s determination to grant her asylum may just additional disappointed the rustic’s family members with Saudi Arabia.

In August, Saudi Arabia expelled Canada’s ambassador to the dominion and withdrew its personal ambassador after Canada’s International Ministry tweeted give a boost to for girls’s proper activists who were arrested. The Saudis additionally bought Canadian investments and ordered their electorate learning in Canada to depart.

No nation, together with the U.S., spoke out publicly in give a boost to of Canada in that spat with the Saudis. Freeland did not deal with what Alqunun’s case would imply to Saudi family members.

“Canada believes very strongly in status up for human rights during the arena. We imagine very strongly that girl’s rights are human rights,” Freeland mentioned.

There used to be no speedy Saudi govt response, nor any point out of her arrival in state media.

Freeland mentioned the U.N. refugee company discovered she used to be in unhealthy scenario in Thailand and that Canada is happy they have been ready to behave temporarily to supply her safe haven.

Alqunun’s father arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, however his daughter refused to fulfill with him.

The workplace of the U.N. Top Commissioner for Refugees welcomed Canada’s determination.

“The fast movements during the last week of the federal government of Thailand in offering brief safe haven and facilitating refugee standing choice via UNHCR, and of the federal government of Canada in providing emergency resettlement to Ms. Alqunun and arranging her go back and forth have been key to the a success solution of this situation,” the company mentioned in a remark.

A number of different international locations, together with Australia, were in talks with the U.N.’s refugee company to just accept Alqunun, Surachate mentioned.

“She selected Canada. It is her non-public determination,” he mentioned.

Australian media reported that UNHCR had withdrawn its referral for Alqunon to be resettled in Australia as a result of Canberra used to be taking too lengthy to come to a decision on her asylum.

“When referring instances with explicit vulnerabilities who want speedy resettlement, we connect nice significance to the rate at which international locations imagine and procedure instances,” a UNHCR spokesperson in Bangkok advised The Related Press in an e mail answer on situation of anonymity for the reason that individual wasn’t approved to speak about the case publicly.

Canada’s ambassador had observed her off on the airport, the place Alqunun thanked everybody for serving to her. She plans to start out finding out extra English, regardless that she already speaks it greater than passably.

Alqunun used to be stopped Jan. five at Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport via immigration police who denied her access and seized her passport.

She barricaded herself in an airport resort room the place her social media marketing campaign were given sufficient public and diplomatic give a boost to that Thai officers admitted her briefly below the safety of U.N. officers, who granted her refugee standing Wednesday.

Surachate mentioned her father — whose title has now not been launched — denied bodily abusing Alqunun or looking to drive her into an organized marriage, that have been some of the causes she gave for her flight. He mentioned Alqunun’s father sought after his daughter again however revered her determination.

“He has 10 youngsters. He mentioned the daughter may really feel not noted now and again,” Surachate mentioned.

Phil Robertson, deputy Asia director of Human Rights Watch, cited Alqunun’s “braveness and perseverance.”

“That is such a lot a victory for everybody who cares about respecting and selling girls’s rights, valuing the independence of sweet sixteen to forge their very own method, and critical governments perform within the gentle and now not darkness,” he mentioned in a remark.

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