Behind the happy outcome for Rahaf Mohammed, many refugees with no recourse

Derrière l'issue heureuse pour Rahaf Mohammed, de nombreux réfugiés sans recours

The case of a teenage girl saudi, whose flight from the grip of a family allegedly violent has attracted international attention is a rare case where the stars are aligned for obtaining a fast protection in Canada, while other people in similar situations can’t rely on the same response, stressed on Monday of immigration experts.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, aged 18 years, has been under the media spotlight earlier this month when she attempted to escape his family, during a visit to Kuwait, in going to Bangkok, and barring in a hotel room of an airport. Of this place, she sent a message on Twitter saying that she feared for her life if she was returning home.

Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun landed Saturday in Toronto after the canadian government announced that it had agreed to reinstall it at the request of the High Commissioner united Nations for refugees.

Although his success may encourage others facing a similar problem to seek asylum, there are too many variables in play to know how they would be received, said experts in the procedures of the refugees, adding that the vast majority of cases were taking years to resolve.

“The thai authorities have chosen to follow a procedure of protection in the case Rahaf Mohammed, but no one can guarantee that this will happen in the future with more or less consistency or frequency,” said Sharry Aiken, an expert in the law and policy of migration at Queen s.

“So, even though it may be, immediately after the case, other attempts, I guess we can’t rely on the success of these attempts in the same way”, she added.

She referred to the case of Dina Ali Lasloom, another saudi woman who has left her family to Kuwait in 2017, but who has been arrested while she was traveling in the Philippines. With the help of a canadian traveller, Mrs. Lasloom has published a video on Twitter, describing his fate, but the media reported that she had been returned to saudi Arabia shortly after.

The visibility on social networks is not a guarantee of success

Some countries, such as Canada, can be influenced if they know of a situation that plays out in the eyes of the public, but it is unclear to what extent this counts for the so-called transit States such as Thailand and the Philippines, said Mrs. Aiken.

“It is important to understand that not all Twitter campaigns that will lead to effective action”, she stressed.

Chantal Desloges, a lawyer specializing in immigration law installed in Toronto, said that even if Canada is to be congratulated for having welcomed Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, this decision could have “troubling consequences” for other people waiting for help.

“I’m afraid that it inspires other people to think that they can bombard the organizations and the canadian government on the social networks and try in one way or another to benefit from the same preferential treatment for themselves,” she said.

“This opens a bit of a Pandora’s box, and these people are going to rightly say to themselves : “well, it worked for her, why is this not working for me?””

The federal government says constantly that the resettlement of refugees takes a long time, but cases like this show that there may be a political, she argued.

The canadian minister of Immigration, Ahmed Hussen, acknowledged Monday that the case of Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun was unusual.

“Most of the cases take of course a lot of time to be treated, but there are exceptional cases in which the UNHCR asks Canada to protect urgently the women in particular (…) who find themselves in a situation very serious and dangerous and in need of urgent protection”, said the minister.

Gestures in reaction to saudi Arabia?

Craig Damian Smith, an associate director of the Laboratory for global migration of the School of international affairs and public policy Munk of the University of Toronto, said that the case Alqunun had no doubt attracted attention to the conditions in which many women are found in countries such as saudi Arabia, but that it would probably not improve their situation.

“It could also mean a crackdown on their ability to travel,” he said. “This is something that you see with the countries that are oppressive in general since the cold war until today – who do not want to give their enemies ideological spectacular victories.”

Ms. Aiken, an expert in immigration law at Queen’s University, has said that Canada could also do much better in regards to the resettlement of refugees, noting that the country remains firm on its decision to block the future refugees from other countries from the United States.

“We offered protection to a refugee, but of the thousands of potential refugees – from third countries – are currently attempting to flee the United States and we do not offer them the possibility to apply for asylum in Canada,” she argues.

“It is important to understand that among the population of the migrant who seeks to enter Canada, there are women like Rahaf Mohammed that we do not accept.”

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