'A Helping Hand': Calls To Bring Saudi Woman Seeking Asylum To Australia
United Nations officials said it could take several days to process Rahaf Mohammed Mutlaq Alqunun's case.
The 18-year-old is currently safe in Thailand as she awaits a decision on her request for asylum, according to ABC journalist Sophie McNeill.
McNeill who was contacted by the young woman on Sunday and has since spent some time with her, told The Project she heard from Alqunun on Tuesday and said she was "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 Alqunun has a "very firm idea" of what she wanted and had spoken to her about the freedom of Australia.
It's understood the ABC journalist was with the young woman in the dramatic hours during which she believed she would be deported from Thailand earlier this week.
"I think the world watching was a very powerful influencing factor in what went down... millions of people were tuning in live," McNeill told The Project panel.
It comes as Alqunun's father and brother reportedly touched down in Bangkok on Tuesday evening and immediately asked to see her.
However Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakpan said the men would have to wait to learn whether the UN's refugee agency would allow them to.
"The father and brother want to go and talk to Rahaf but the UN will need to approve such talk," Surachate told reporters.
UNHCR's Thailand representative Giuseppe de Vincentiis said it could take several days to process her case.
"We are very grateful that the Thai authorities did not send back (Alqunun) against her will and are extending protection to her."
It comes amid growing calls for Australia to help the young woman.
Federal Greens Senator Sarah Hanson-Young has repeated calls for the Australian government to extend a "helping hand" to an 18-year-old Saudi woman seeking asylum in Australia.
Hanson-Young urged the government to offer a "safe haven" to the young woman who was detained by Saudi officials at a Bangkok airport.
"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," she told reporters on Tuesday.
While not elaborating on the information he had received from the federal government, Labor's immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann said they were providing "sufficient" support.
The 18-year-old, who said she is fleeing physical and psychological abuse by her family in Saudi Arabia, arrived in Bangkok on Monday, when she said she was stripped of her passport by Thailand authorities.
She reportedly had a visa to enter Australia, but there are now unconfirmed reports it has been cancelled by Australian authorities.
The Home Affairs department has not responded to multiple requests for comment, but photos seen by 10 daily show Alqunun unable to log in to her account with the Immigration Department as of around midday Tuesday.
Earlier, when the young woman arrived in Bangkok, she claimed she was met by a Saudi diplomat who forcibly confiscated her passport. She said she was confined inside a hotel room at the airport, under the guard of men she said were from the Saudi embassy and Kuwait airlines.
Alqunun barricaded herself inside the room and requested to speak to the United Nations refugee office.
After initially being blocked by the Thai government, UNHCR officials were reportedly able to interview the teenager. She has left the airport and is now in the custody of Thai immigration officials.
A UNHRC representative said he had been given assurances Alqunun would not be sent back to Saudi Arabia.
"We will talk to her and do whatever she requests. Since she escaped trouble to seek our help, we are the Land of Smiles, we will not send anyone to their death," Thailand's Immigration Police Chief, Surachet Hakpal, said at a news conference on Monday.
Senator Hanson-Young repeated calls for Australia to "show moral leadership" and step in to help the distressed teen.
"Once the UN has completed their investigation, once they have assessed her refugee status, she is going to need somewhere to go -- a third country," Senator Hanson-Young said on Tuesday.
"She can't stay in Thailand."
Alqunun has used Twitter to publicise her situation, sending videos and statements to media outlets, who have shared them on their own social channels.
She also explained she is trying to flee both physical and psychological abuse in Saudi Arabia.
"We know that Saudi Arabia is often a tough and unsafe place for young women and girls," Senator Hanson-Young said.
"Here in Australia, a safe and progressive democracy, we have an opportunity to do something to help her. When somebody comes knocking, if you can help your neighbour, you do."
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