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UK News Desk

Saudi teen who fled 'abusive' family is flying to Canada

A Saudi teenager who fled her homeland for Thailand to escape her “abusive” family is on a flight to Canada.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has confirmed he has granted asylum to the 18-year-old, adding that he is “pleased”.

His comments came shortly after Thailand’s immigration chief said Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun would be leaving the country.

The teenager, who is flying from Bangkok to Seoul before taking a connecting flight to Canada, was given refugee status by the UN high commissioner for refugees on Wednesday.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun 1:37
Video: ‘I want asylum’: Saudi teen fears for her life

Miss Alqunun earlier responded to the news she would be headed to Canada by tweeting a photo of herself with a Snapchat filter and the caption: “Hey… I’m happy.”

Earlier on Friday, several countries – including Canada and Australia – were in talks with the UN’s refugee agency to accept Miss Alqunun, who fears being killed by her relatives if she returns to Saudi Arabia.

The woman, who said her passport was seized after being stopped at an airport in Bangkok on Saturday, had barricaded herself in an airport hotel room and launched a social media campaign, drawing attention from around the world.

She was on her way to Australia when she was stopped by Thai authorities.

'I'm happy' - Rahaf Alqunun tweets this photo after she is given refugee status
Image: 'I'm happy' – Rahaf Alqunun tweeted this photo after she was given refugee status

Her father and brother arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday with the intention of seeing her – but Thai police said she refused to meet them.

Several Saudi women fleeing abuse by their families have tried to seek asylum abroad in recent years but have been sent back home.

Human rights campaigners say many similar cases have gone unreported.

The teenager had written on her Twitter account, which now appears to have been taken down, that she wished to seek refuge in Australia.

Feminist author Mona Eltahawy, who has been tweeting about the case under the #SaveRahaf hashtag, said the teenager would be back online soon.

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“I have heard from people in touch with Rahaf and she is safe and fine and will be back online soon,” she wrote.

“I know there is a lot of love all over the world for her and you can all tell her that when she’s back online. #SaveRahaf.”

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