'Afraid I'd be killed like Khashoggi': Saudi teen's desperate plea to Australia

"UNHCR has been following developments closely and immediately sough access from the Thai authorities to meet with Ms. Mohammed Al-qunun, 18, to assess her need for worldwide protection", the agency said in a statement.

Ms al-Qunun's asylum application was fast-tracked, partly because of security concerns after the young woman's father and brother arrived in Bangkok and asked Thai police to see her.

Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun's attempt to flee the ultra-conservative kingdom has become a cause celebre for rights groups since the 18-year-old landed in Bangkok from Kuwait over the weekend.

To avoid being deported she barricaded herself in a Thai hotel room and started tweeting about her ordeal.

But she said she would lobby for the return of former Bahraini national footballer Hakeem Alaraibi, who was granted refugee status in Australia after fleeing a crackdown during the Arab Spring.

In a statement ahead of her trip, Payne did not mention Qunun's case.

As global interest surged, Thai authorities backed down from the deportation threat, handing her into the care of the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in Bangkok, which has urged Australia to offer resettlement.

It added that it would "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals".

"I think the most important thing is a young woman in these very very hard circumstances is supported appropriately through the United Nations processes and that countries like Australia who are in a position potentially to provide her with support are able to work from that point once those are finalised and determine what the next steps are", Ms Payne said.

He said the family's patriarch had met with the UNHCR yesterday morning and will return to "her country" later today.

A UNHCR representative said "the process is still ongoing".

She has refused to meet her father and brother, who arrived in Bangkok this week to try to take her back to Saudi Arabia while denying accusations that her family was abusing her physically and emotionally, Thai authorities said.

On Sunday Ms Qunun told AFP her family was "abusive" and once locked her in a room for six months just for cutting her hair. Saudi religious law forbids her to travel alone without permission of her male guardian.

The 18-year-old claims her family would kill her if she were sent home to Saudi Arabia, where she has renounced Islam and "rebelled" against her father.

"Please help", al-Qunun posted on Twitter, "I am in Bangkok about to be forced on a flight back to Saudi where my life is in danger".

"It would have been better if they had confiscated her mobile instead of her passport".

The Saudi embassy in Bangkok has said it did not demand the teenager's deportation and the case was a family affair.

It comes at a time when Riyadh is facing unusually intense scrutiny from its Western allies over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October and over the humanitarian consequences of its war in Yemen.

The human rights group Amnesty International said yesterday it welcomed the decision by UNHCR to grant refugee status to the teenage Saudi runaway.

New spotlight on Bahraini footballer? It said her case had inspired millions and should remind people of the bravery and sacrifices of people who flee their native lands for safety.

The Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne, earlier signalled a willingness to look at the case.