An 18-year-old Saudi woman who fled alleged abuse from her family to seek a new life abroad appears to have been granted asylum amid conflicting reports about where she is going.
The Australian newspaper reports Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun is headed to Canada, while the Daily Mail Australia reports she has been granted resettlement in Australia.
Ms Alqunun told the Daily Mail on Friday she was happy to “start a new life” in Australia and that she had been provided with an apartment for three months, although she didn’t know where it would be.
Australian government sources have denied the Daily Mail Australia report.
The Australian, meanwhile, reports the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees withdrew its referral to Australia to take Ms Alqunun as a refugee.
It claims Ms al-Alqunun had expressed a preference to go to Canada prior to the UNHCR’s withdrawal, meaning the teen is “almost certainly headed for Canada.”
The immigration department chief in Thailand – where she has been staying while her claim is being weighed up – told CNN on Friday Ms Alqunun had been granted asylum in Australia.
“Yes, Australia has granted her asylum, but we are waiting to hear where exactly she is going,” Surachate Hakparn said.
Canada had also offered Ms Alqunun asylum and they were waiting for her decision, he added.
Ms Alqunun garnered worldwide attention after she barricaded herself in an airport hotel room in Bangkok and began tweeting that her life was in danger if she were forced to return to Saudi Arabia.
It appears Ms Alqunun’s Twitter account @rahaf84427714, which amassed thousands of followers during the ordeal, went offline on Friday afternoon.
She had earlier tweeted: “I have some bad news and good news”.
A Twitter user known as Nourah, whom Ms Alqunun has referred to as a friend, tweeted that the teen “received death threats and for this reason she closed her Twitter account”.
Ms Alqunun had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum before she was detained by Thai authorities on Sunday.
On Wednesday, the UNHCR granted her refugee status, ahead of a visit by Foreign Minister Marise Payne to Thailand a day later.
Australia was assessing whether to grant Ms Alqunun asylum and there was “no time frame” for a decision, Ms Payne said on Thursday.
The Department of Home Affairs has been approached for comment.