Saudi teen eyes fast-tracked Aussie visa
AUSTRALIA is considering granting asylum to a young Saudi woman who fears for her life if deported home after the United Nations decided she was a refugee.
Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun had planned to enter Australia on a tourist visa and seek asylum before she was detained by Thai authorities on Sunday.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Australian government confirmed the United Nations' High Commission for Refugees had referred the 18-year-old for refugee resettlement.
"The Department of Home Affairs will consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals," a spokesperson said.
"The government will be making no further comment on this matter."
Ms Alqunun will be subject to Australian security and character checks as the government examines her suitability for refugee settlement.
Before the referral, Australia signalled it would seriously consider allowing Ms Alqunun to settle in Australia after urging the UNHCR to process her case quickly.
Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said there would be no "special treatment" in Ms Alqunun's case.
"Nobody wants to see a young girl in distress and she has obviously now found a safe haven in Thailand," Mr Dutton told reporters in Brisbane today.
The teenager made a desperate plea for asylum after expressing fears her family would kill her if she were sent home.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said Australia would consider giving Ms Alqunun a humanitarian visa if the UNHCR process found her to be a refugee.
"Pending the outcome of that, if she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa," he told the ABC.
Opposition Leader Bill Shorten wrote to Prime Minister Scott Morrison giving his support for the woman's claim if she was found to be a refugee. "Should Ms Mohammed Alqunun be found to have valid protection claims and entitled to asylum, Labor would be supportive of any government moves to offer her humanitarian settlement," Mr Shorten wrote.
After being detained, the teenager renounced Islam and appealed for help from Australia, Canada, the United States, Britain and other European nations.
Ms Alqunun's father and brother arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday evening and asked to see her but Thai officials said it was up to the UN's refugee agency.
Saudi Arabia has strict social rules, including a requirement women have permission from a male "guardian" to travel.