Saudi runaway sisters stranded in Hong Kong face deportation
The unidentified 18 and 20 year-old claim they could face the death penalty if they were to be deported back to Saudi Arabia.
The immigration department in Hong Kong had acknowledged their request and were hopeful a visa extension beyond Thursday’s deadline would be granted, their lawyer, Michael Vidler, said.
“We are in fear every day we are in Hong Kong. We want to leave to a third country place of safety as soon as possible. We desperately hope that this will happen very soon,” the sisters said in a statement issued by their lawyer.
The pair, who had ran away from a family holiday in Sri Lanka, landed in Hong Kong in September 2018. They have applied for asylum in an unidentified third country.
They were barred from boarding a flight to Australia and were intercepted by Saudi diplomats, they revealed, before escaping and entering the city as visitors.
Neither the Hong Kong immigration department nor the Saudi consulate in Hong Kong have yet commented on the case.
However, Amnesty International on Thursday urged Hong Kong authorities to abstain from returning the sisters to the kingdom, which has received global criticism in recent months for the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi and the high-profile case of Rahaf al-Qunun.
“This would place them in grave danger,” said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty’s refugee researcher. “They fled the kingdom after repeated abuse by male relatives and they are at real risk of serious human rights violations if they are forcibly returned.”
In January, 18-year-old Saudi runaway Rahaf al-Qunun arrived in Bangkok and staved off deportation by barricading herself in a hotel at the airport, live-tweeting the standoff to an international audience.
She was handed over to the UN refugee agency within days and resettled to Canada within a week, where she was welcomed by Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland after landing in Toronto.
Qunun said she suffered abuse in the ultra-conservative kingdom and refused to see family members who came to Thailand after her flight.
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