A Saudi woman who fled her family and refused to leave a Bangkok hotel has been declared a legitimate refugee by the UN, the Australian government says.
Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun, 18, refused to board a flight from Bangkok to Kuwait on Monday and barricaded herself into her airport hotel room.
She said she had renounced Islam, which is punishable by death in Saudi Arabia.
The UN’s refugee agency has referred her case to Australia for possible resettlement.
Thai immigration officials had initially said she should return to Kuwait, where her family were waiting. She then started a social media campaign, live-tweeting her case and attracting international attention.
In a brief statement, Australia’s Department of Home Affairs said it would “consider this referral in the usual way”.
Ms Mohammed al-Qunun posted a message on Twitter following the announcement, saying: “Don’t let anyone break your wings, you’re free. Fight and get your rights!”
Refugee status is normally granted by governments, but the UNHCR can grant it where states are “unable or unwilling to do so”, according to its website. The UNHCR says it does not comment on individual cases.
Now that Ms Mohammed-al Qunun has been given this status, another country must agree to take her in.
Officials in Australia have hinted that her request will be accepted.
“If she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa,” Health Minister Greg Hunt told the ABC network before the UN determination was made public.
But Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton warned there would be “no special treatment” for Ms Mohammed al-Qunun.