Federation Internationale de Football Association demands detained Bahraini refugee be allowed back to Australia

Lester Mason
January 11, 2019

Thai authorities eventually admitted Alqunun into the country and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recognised her as a refugee.

Thai police say Rahaf al-Qunun's father is still in Thailand and opposes her application to resettle.

Ms Qunun's father, accompanied by her brother, arrived in Bangkok, and denied any physical abuse of his daughter, or any attempt to force her into an arranged marriage.

"They've done so in the past with China", she said.

Activists have urged the Australian government to support Ms al-Qunun in her bid for asylum in Australia, and said the young woman should be issued with emergency travel documents.

But al-Qunun's savvy use of Twitter throughout her ordeal at Bangkok airport, including tweeting videos of her barricading herself in a hotel room, galvanised a global campaign and calls for her to be granted asylum.

Ms Alqunun had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum before she was detained last weekend.

She commended Thailand for referring al-Qunun's case to the UNHCR and reiterated that Australia was now engaged in the assessment process of her asylum claim as required.

'The Department of Home Affairs will consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals'.

Football Federation Australia have also added to the pressure and are reported to have this week finally met with AFC president (and Bahraini royal) Sheikh Salman al-Khalifa.

"If she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa", health minister Greg Hunt had said before the United Nations determination was public.

Ms Payne said she had also spoken to Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister about the detention of Hakeen AlAraibi, and his possible return to Bahrain.

"It would be a pretty stunning reversal if they didn't take her", he said.

Elaine Pearson, the Australian director of Human Rights Watch, questioned why the Thai government was spinning its wheels over Araibi when it had separately agreed to protect Qunun.

Alqunun's father arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, but his daughter refused to meet with him.

"We are here to encourage them to let her in", Love said.

Qunun had told AFP that fleeing her family throws her into conflict with the Saudi system, which allows male family members to make decisions for female relatives, and if returned, she is "100 percent" sure she would be killed by her family.

"Please help", al-Qunun posted on Twitter, "I am in Bangkok about to be forced on a flight back to Saudi where my life is in danger".

The Saudi weighed in on Alaraibi's case on her widely followed Twitter account.

"It would have been better if they had confiscated her mobile instead of her passport".

"I was also afraid that I would be killed by the Saudi Embassy just like him", she said.

It comes at a time when Riyadh is facing unusually intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and over the humanitarian consequences of its war in Yemen. He is obligated to do everything in his power to advocate, both privately and publicly, and to use the enormous leverage that football has, with the Bahrain government, his own government, he's a Bahrainian national, and also with the Thai government to release Hakeem.

The human rights group Amnesty International said yesterday it welcomed the decision by UNHCR to grant refugee status to the teenage Saudi runaway.

Ms al-Qunun was detained in Thailand following her arrival in the country.

But she said she would lobby for the return of former Bahraini national footballer Hakeem Alaraibi, who was granted refugee status in Australia after fleeing a crackdown during the Arab Spring.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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