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Saudi Woman's Asylum Will Be 'Carefully Considered' By Australian Government

Australia will consider an application for asylum from Saudi woman Rahaf Alqunun if she is found to be a genuine refugee by the United Nations. 

The Department of Home Affairs confirmed on Tuesday evening that it has called on both Thai authorities and the United Nations to assess Alqunun's status as soon as possible.

"The Australian Government is pleased that Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun is having her claim for protection assessed by the UNHCR," a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said on Tuesday.

"The Government has made representations to the Thai Government and the Bangkok office of the UNHCR about its serious concerns on this matter and the need for Ms Al-Qunun’s claim to be assessed expeditiously."

Rahaf Alqunun will have any asylum application considered by Australia. Image: Reuters.

The Department confirmed it will consider any asylum application by Alqunun, 18, if she is deemed a refugee by the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

"Any application by Ms Al-Qunun for a humanitarian visa will be carefully considered once the UNHCR process has concluded."

READ MORE: 'We Will Not Send Anyone To Their Death': Thai Officials Won't Deport Saudi Teen Seeking Asylum

The spokesperson also addressed rumours circulating on social media on Tuesday regarding Alqunun's visa. There were unconfirmed reports Immigration Minister David Coleman had cancelled the 18-year-old's visa, barring her from entering Australia.

Although to the Department did not confirm or deny the rumours, the spokesperson said Alqunun being granted asylum in Australia is not dependent on her holding a valid visa.

"Whether someone holds a visitor visa does not have a bearing on this process," the spokesperson said.

Alqunun's refugee status is being considered by the United Nations. Image: Reuters.

This move comes after Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young called on the government to grant Alqunun asylum in Australia.

"This is an opportunity for Australia to do the right thing, for Australia to help a young woman in distress and in need of safety and protection," Hanson-Young told reporters on Tuesday.

READ MORE: 'A Helping Hand': Calls To Bring Saudi Woman Seeking Asylum To Australia

READ MORE: 'We Can Help': Calls For Australia To Help Saudi Woman Detained In Bangkok

The teenager claims she is fleeing psychological and physical violence at the hands of male members of her family. She has also denounced Islam and cut her hair. Alqunun claims her life would be in grave danger if she were returned to Saudi Arabia and her family would kill her.

ABC Journalist Sophie McNeill was contacted by Alqunun on Sunday and has since spent some time with her. McNeill told The Project on Tuesday night that the young woman is "quite overwhelmed".

"She's only 18 and she didn't sleep really for three days or eat anything at all yesterday so she is pretty much recovering," McNeill said on Tuesday.

It is expected the United Nation's assessment of Alqunun's status will be completed in a few days.

Featured Image: Reuters

Contact Siobhan at skenna@networkten.com.au