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A Saudi teenager, who was left homeless and unable to return to her home country after renouncing Islam, has found safe refuge in Canada, according to the BBC.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun “fled her family alleging abuse,” the British news network reported, but has been drifting from country to country seeking asylum.
Al-Qunun was initially headed toward Australia when she was rerouted to Kuwait where her family was waiting to recover her and bring her home. Fearing what could happen to her if she was returned to those she claimed had shunned her for renouncing her Muslim faith, she “refused to fly back and barricaded herself into her airport hotel room” in Bangkok, Thailand, until she was offered safe passage.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees requested that Canada take the teen in, and late last week, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that Canada had approved Raham al-Qunun’s request for asylum.
She left Bangkok for Toronto on Friday, CNN reports, and landed in Toronto early Saturday morning, where she was greeted with clothing bearing the name of her new home country.
It’s not entirely clear what happened to the teen’s request for asylum in Australia, or why she was suddenly cut off from safe passage and stranded in Thailand, where officials blocked her from flying anywhere but back to the Middle East. Initially Thai authorities said that both Canada and Australia had approved al-Qunun’s request for refugee status, but they later retracted that statement.
Australian officials said that they were still processing Rahaf al-Qunun’s request when Canada agreed to grant her asylum.
“Australia has one of the most generous humanitarian programs in the world, and all applications are considered in accordance with Australian law and procedures,” one government official told CNN in a statement. “We wish Ms Al-Qunun all the best for her future in Canada.”
Al-Qunun told media that she believes that quick work from the United Nations likely saved her life.
Al-Qunun fled Kuwait for Thailand last week, alleging that her family planned to kill her after she announced she was no longer Muslim. She documented her plight on social media, posting tweets and Periscope videos from planes and hotel rooms, triggering viral, global support for her cause. When she was refused safe passage to Australia, al-Qunun took to Twitter, posting videos of herself barricaded in a Bangkok hotel room, refusing to board a plane to Kuwait or meet her father and brother, who had flown from the Middle East to convince her to return home with them.
Canada’s foreign minister told the BBC the decision to admit al-Qunun was an easy one: “She is a very brave young woman who has been through a lot … and she is now going to go to her new home.”