Saudi teen Rahaf Alqunun granted asylum in Canada, Justin Trudeau confirms

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A Saudi teenager who fled her homeland for Thailand to escape her "abusive" family is to fly to Canada, Thai officials say.

The decision to give haven to the 18-year-old Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun capped a almost week-long drama that highlighted the power of social media to call attention to her case and reverse initial plans by Thai officials to deport her to Kuwait, where she fled her family while on holiday.

Within hours, she amassed a huge following on Twitter as she refused to board a flight back the conservative kingdom and barricaded herself inside a hotel room.

Then, Canada levelled sanctions against many Saudis believed to be involved in the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, and is said to be considering pulling out of the deal to sell light-armored vehicles to Saudi Arabia.

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

However, Canadian authorities said they could not confirm that Qunun had been granted asylum in Canada. She later told reporters that Australia is assessing Alqunun's request for resettlement but there was no specific timeframe.

The case has highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia.

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"Ms.al-Qunun´s plight has captured the world´s attention over the past few days, providing a glimpse into the precarious situation of millions of refugees worldwide", UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.

Around mid-day on Friday, her Twitter account, @rahaf84427714, went offline after she posted that she had "bad and good news!" She said she was fleeing abuse by her family.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun is flying to Toronto through Seoul, South Korea, said Thai immigration official Surachate Hakparn. She arrived in Thailand on Saturday and was initially denied entry.

But late Friday Thailand's immigration police chief said she was bound for Canada.

"She chose Canada. Canada said it will accept her", Thai immigration chief Surachate Hakparn told reporters at Bangkok´s main airport.

She said she suffered physical abuse at the hands of family members and alleged they had tried to marry her off against her will. Alqunun's family so far hasn't commented publicly on the accusations.

The Southeast Asian country is not a signatory to a convention on refugees and asylum seekers must be referred to a third country.

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It is not clear why the Australian option fell through, and the United Nations switched to Canada.

Australia's Home Affairs Department said it would "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".

Ms Qunun told the BBC: "I shared my story and my pictures on social media and my father is so angry because I did this".

'I want life. I want to be independent.

She has also denounced Islam and cut her hair.

Qunun's situation comes as Saudi Arabia is facing global pressures over the killing of reporter Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey and Saudi involvement in the conflict in Yemen.

"They will kill me", she said.

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The top Australian diplomat was expected to meet with Thailand's Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Minister Prajin Juntong and hold a bilateral meeting with her Thai counterpart, Foreign Minister Don Pramudwinai, to discuss Qunun's case.

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