Saudi sisters hiding in Hong Kong granted asylum, says lawyer

Saudi sisters Rawan (in yellow) and Reem standing next to each other during an interview in Hong Kong, on Feb 22, 2019.
Saudi sisters Rawan (in yellow) and Reem standing next to each other during an interview in Hong Kong, on Feb 22, 2019. PHOTO: AFP

HONG KONG (DPA) - Two Saudi sisters hiding in Hong Kong have left the city after they were granted asylum in an unknown country late last week, their lawyer said on Monday (March 25).

"After six months of hiding in Hong Kong from Saudi authorities and their family, these strong, brave and determined young women have finally been able to secure humanitarian visas to a third country," lawyer Michael Vidler said in a statement.

He did not release the location to protect the safety of the sisters, who are known to the media as "Reem and Rawan".

Aged 18 and 22, the pair had been living hiding in Hong Kong since September, but had to leave by April 8, according to a deadline set by immigration authorities.

Hong Kong is not a signatory to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, meaning would-be asylum seekers must apply for refuge elsewhere.

The sisters could face the death penalty if they return to Saudi Arabia, according to Mr Vidler, as they have renounced Islam.

Reem and Rawan fled from a family holiday in Sri Lanka to Hong Kong six months ago, where they hoped to board a plane to Australia, according to Mr Vidler.

They were reportedly intercepted in Hong Kong airport by Saudi officials before their flight, but eventually evaded them and entered the city as visitors. The sisters' plight became more complex in November when Saudi Arabia cancelled their passports, according to Mr Vidler.

 
 

Hong Kong initially granted the pair until Feb 28 to remain although it later extended permission until April.

Hong Kong's Immigration Department declined to comment, saying it does not give information about individual cases.