"The Australian government is pleased that Ms Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun is having her claim for protection assessed by the UNHCR", a spokesperson for Australia's Department of Home Affairs told NPR on Tuesday.
A Saudi woman who fled her family and refused to leave a Bangkok hotel has been given refugee status by United Nations, the Australian government says.
Saudi Arabia's charge d'affaires in Bangkok, Abdalelah al-Sheaibi, was stone-faced as he discussed his government's displeasure with the limelight in a meeting with Thai officials. Hakparn ensured that they will "take care of her as best we can", and that "she is now under the sovereignty of Thailand; no-one and no embassy can force her to go anywhere".
A spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees at its Geneva headquarters, Babar Baloch, said Tuesday it's premature to say what will happen next, but that it could take several days for the agency to look into al-Qunun's claims.
While Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has been steadily easing restrictions on women, notably granting them the right to open their own businesses and to drive cars, the guardianship system remains in place and authorities remain sensitive to social codes. She was planning to seek asylum in Australia but was intercepted at an airport transit zone in Bangkok.
The ministry also confirmed that they had been in contact with the girl's father, "as it's the Embassy's role to inform him on her situation and the date of her return". Alanazi, reached by Asia Times, said that it was the Thai border control that took the young woman's passport and that the airline was only cooperating with the process after her visa was rejected.
Worldwide pressure has mounted on Thai authorities to keep Alqunun safe and to ensure she isn't forcibly returned to the Saudi kingdom, which has been subject to global condemnation over the killing of Washington Post writer Jamal Khashoggi at a Saudi consulate in Turkey.
She has also reportedly appealed for asylum from several European countries and Canada.
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The embassy, along with Thai officials, earlier said that al-Qunun was stopped by Thai authorities in Bangkok because she did not have a return ticket, a hotel reservation or itinerary to show she was a tourist, which appeared to have raised a flag about the reasons for her trip.
Her plight shot to public attention when she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to avoid deportation and shared dozens of fearful but defiant messages online insisting on her right to asylum.
"I'm sure 100 per cent they will kill me as soon as I get out of the Saudi jail", she told AFP, adding that she was "scared" and "losing hope".
A group called the Secret Sisterhood has set up a GoFundMe page to raise cash for Qunun once she is resettled in another country. "My life is in danger". "She fled hardship. Thailand is a land of smiles. Recall - adult women [are] not free to travel without [a] guardian's permission", tweeted Human Rights Watch's Middle East director Sarah Leah Whitson.
But she was stopped en route by authorities in Thailand at the request of the Saudi government, which demanded the woman return to her family.
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. "You saved Rahaf's life yesterday: the people, the media".