Saudi girl fleeing from family, granted asylum in Canada

Rahaf Mohammed Al Qunun shakes hands with Thai Immigration Police Chief Surachet Hakparn

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun (18) boarded a flight from Bangkok to Toronto via Seoul yesterday, immigration chief Surachate Hakpark said.

An 18-year-old Saudi woman who said she feared death if deported back home has arrived in Canada, which has granted her asylum.

Qunun alleges abuse by her family - who deny the allegations - and rights groups also said she had renounced Islam, risking prosecution in conservative Saudi Arabia.

Rahaf Mohammed al Qunun was already en route to Toronto late on Friday when Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made the surprise announcement after officials had previously given heavy hints she was bound for Australia.

However, Ms Qunun sent a series of tweets pleading for help from her airport hotel room, and her case was picked up by Human Rights Watch and journalists.

The acceptance of the teen could further damage Saudi Arabia's relationship with Canada.

She deleted her entire contentious Twitter account hours before departure for Canada. Several nations, including Australia, had welcomed Alqunun as a refugee, but she preferred Canada.

Women in Saudi Arabia are subjected to many restrictions, including on their freedom of movement.

A young Saudi woman who caused an worldwide sensation as she sought asylum overseas arrived in Toronto today where she was welcomed with open arms.

After being denied entry by Thai immigration officials, Qunun then barricaded herself inside a hotel room, posting live updates on social media.

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The decision is likely to exacerbate Canada's already poor relations with Saudi Arabia, which previous year barred the Canadian ambassador to Riyadh after Ottawa criticized Saudi authorities for detaining women's' activists.

Earlier, Gen Surachate told reporters Friday that "two or three" countries were ready to offer her asylum. The Saudis also sold Canadian investments and ordered their citizens studying in Canada to leave. It garnered enough public and diplomatic support to convince Thai officials to admit her temporarily under the protection of United Nations officials.

No country, including the United States, spoke out publicly in support of Canada in that spat with the Saudis.

Mr Surachate said her father and brother were due to return home on a flight today.

"He has 10 children".

She was off to get winter clothes, said Mario Calla, executive director of COSTI Immigrant Services, which is helping her settle in temporary housing and applying for a health card.

The Twitter hashtag #SaveRahaf ensued, and a photograph of her behind a door barricaded with a mattress was seen around the world.

Her case has drawn global attention to Saudi Arabia's strict social rules, including a requirement that women have the permission of a male "guardian" to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families.

Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne met on Thursday with senior Thai officials in Bangkok.

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