Australia FM visits Thailand amid Saudi asylum seeker saga

Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne met her Thai counterpart Thursday. (File/AFP)
Updated 10 January 2019
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Australia FM visits Thailand amid Saudi asylum seeker saga

BANGKOK: Australia’s foreign minister Marise Payne met her Thai counterpart Thursday, as her country appeared poised to offer to asylum to a young Saudi woman who claims to have fled her family to Thailand because they subjected her to physical and psychological abuse.
Rahaf Mohammed Al-Qunun made a plea for asylum after landing at Bangkok airport, before later being placed “under the care” of the United Nations refugee agency, news agency AFP quoted a Thai official saying late Monday.
This was later confirmed by Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Thailand which also denied, in a tweet, that Riyadh had requested Al-Qunun’s extradition.
The 18-year-old said she had planned to seek asylum in Australia and feared she would be killed if repatriated by Thai immigration officials who stopped her during transit on Sunday.


Website launched to support housing project in Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Housing are working together to provide the necessary services for citizens from different social classes. (SPA)
Updated 31 min 47 sec ago
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Website launched to support housing project in Saudi Arabia

  • Real estate financing for January hit SR4.7 billion, and coming months were expected to see even bigger figures, Al-Hogail told Reuters news agency on the sidelines of a housing conference in Riyadh

RIYADH: A new website has been set up to support a housing project for 10,000 units in the Kingdom.
Housing Minister Majid Al-Hogail, and Commerce and Investment Minister Majid Al-Qassabi on Sunday launched Benaa Housing, which will help construction companies and contractors contribute to a development program in the Kingdom.
Benaa Housing aims to speed up the process of building 10,000 housing units in various parts of Saudi Arabia by enabling small and medium enterprises in the construction sector to access and contribute to projects and opportunities. The estimated cost of the project is SR3.5 billion ($910 million).
“The Ministry of Housing is always keen to provide adequate housing, solutions, and services suitable to all families, especially the beneficiaries of the Housing Development Program in all regions of the Kingdom,” Al-Hogail said.
Al-Qassabi said the new platform would generate more business opportunities for small and medium enterprises and provide suitable apartments for middle-class and lower-income families.
“The Ministry of Commerce and the Ministry of Housing are working together to provide the necessary services for citizens from different social classes and groups, and the new platform is the fruit of these efforts,” he added.
Earlier this month, the housing minister said he expected investments in the real estate financing sector to reach between SR60 billion and SR80 billion this year.
Real estate financing for January hit SR4.7 billion, and coming months were expected to see even bigger figures, Al-Hogail told Reuters news agency on the sidelines of a housing conference in Riyadh.
Saudi home ownership was growing between 6 and 7 percent annually, he said, adding that he hoped to raise home ownership to 15,000 new households per month by 2020, from a little over 10,000 per month now.
The ministry aims to increase housing ownership through policy and stimulating the private sector, according to its website.
The challenges facing the ministry are the limited availability of suitable units for all parts of the population; difficulty in accessing adequate housing finance; the inefficiency of the real estate sector and heavy reliance on government funding.
“Even though 47 percent of Saudi families already own their homes, we aim to increase this rate by 5 percentage points by 2020,” the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan states. Vision 2030 also aims to speed up construction and provide Saudis with high-quality, competitively priced housing, and to stimulate localization of the country’s construction industry.