Asylum seekers are people who have fled their home country due to various circumstances; such as, war, poverty, and corruption. They enter another country begging for the right of international protection in that country.
18-year-old Rahaf al Qunun ran away from her allegedly abusive family in Saudi Arabia and sought sanctuary in Canada; she has now arrived safely. Her family was on a family trip to Kuwait when she escaped and flew to Thailand with the hopes to reach Australia, but she was prevented from entering Thailand; her passport was confiscated and was threatened with deportation. After Canada came forward with sanctuary, Thailand let her go.
In these moments of panic and fear, she reached out for help to an underground online network of Saudi Women. She said that she had suffered emotional and physical abuse from her family in Saudi Arabia, and that she believes she would be killed if forced to return to Saudi Arabia. Al-Qunun says her father physically abused her and tried to force her into an arranged marriage. Her father, who arrived in Bangkok not long before she left, has denied those allegations.
She also tweeted her story and after it got global attention, Thai immigration officials returned her passport and sent her to UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees). That’s when the campaign #SaveRahaf started, thanks to the help from the online group of Saudi women.
Qunun landed in Toronto a day after Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government would accept Qunun as a refugee.
As reported in CBC News, Prime Minister Trudeau believes that helping Qunun “is something that we are pleased to do because Canada is a country that understands how important it is to stand up for human rights, to stand up for women’s rights around the world.”
Canadians are known for being very supportive of immigration and refugees. Nowadays, we live in a world where hostility is such a big problem, where everyone chooses to close their doors and build walls, but Canada does the opposite and looks out for refugees and those in need of help. It is important to mention Hassan Al Kontar as well, who after nine-month months in an airport, then detention, also began his “dream life” in Canada.
He worked for many years in the United Arab Emirates, but became stranded after his visa expired, and he feared returning to war-torn Syria. With the help from a B.C. Muslim Association, a group of Canadians helped secure Al Kontar’s release. Now he has a job and he’s settled in Whistler, B.C.
Before judging asylum seekers, listen to their stories first. People like Rahaf al Qunun or Hassan Al Kontar could be fearing for their lives, and everyone belongs somewhere with the right to be safe.
Photo courtesy of Vancouver Courier and BBC News