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Asylum assessment of Saudi woman in Thailand to take days: UNHCR

AFP  |  Bangkok 

The asylum claim of a young Saudi woman who resisted from in a gripping, live-tweeted ordeal will take "several days" to assess, the UN's agency in said Tuesday.

arrived at Bangkok's main airport over the weekend on a flight from after running away from her family who she alleges subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.

The 18-year-old said she had planned to seek asylum in Australia, fearing she would be killed if sent back by Thai officials who stopped her at the airport on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia's parlous rights record has been under heavy scrutiny since the murder of last year.

Initially, Thai authorities said Qunun would be sent back to But as her plight pinballed across -- including tweets about how she had barricaded herself in a hotel room -- they abruptly changed course and allowed her to leave the airport late Monday in UNHCR's care.

The agency said it was "very grateful" that officials did not send Qunun back against her will.

"It could take several days to process the case and determine next steps," the UNHCR in Thailand, Giuseppe de Vicentiis, said in a statement.

is not a signatory to a UN convention on refugees, and asylum seekers are typically deported or wait years to be resettled in third countries.

The UNHCR insists anyone with an asylum claim should not be sent back to the country they fled under the principle of non-refoulement.

did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

But in an extensive explanation released on Twitter, the embassy denied sending officials to to meet Qunun as she arrived from Kuwait, where her family live.

It also said her passport had not been impounded as alleged while explaining it is in contact with her father, a in the kingdom, "to inform him on her situation".

Another official told a Saudi-owned channel that Qunun's father had contacted the mission for "help" in bringing her back.

Ultra-conservative has some of the world's toughest restrictions on women, including a guardianship system that allows male family members to make decisions on behalf of female relatives.

Qunun has said she believes she will be imprisoned or killed if sent back and that her family is so strict it once locked her in a room for six months for cutting her hair.

Under the hashtag #SaveRahaf, the young woman's desperate pleas became a sensation, where she was able to post live updates and videos from the airport in both Arabic and English, racking up more than 80,000 followers.

Late Monday, her account said that her father had arrived in AFP was not able to independently verify the

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Tue, January 08 2019. 11:10 IST
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