Saudi Princess Avoids Death by Stoning with UK Asylum

Saudi Princess Avoids Death by Stoning with UK Asylum
Written by Benjamin Joffe-Walt
Published Monday, July 20, 2009

A Saudi Arabian princess who had a child out of wedlock with a British man has been granted asylum in the United Kingdom after claiming she would face death by stoning if she returns to her home country.

The young woman, whose name is being kept secret by the British court, won her claim for U.K. refugee status after claiming that her adulterous affair meant she and her child would face the death penalty in Saudi Arabia under Sharia law.

The woman, who comes from a wealthy Saudi family and is married to an elderly member of the Saudi royal family, is understood to have started a relationship with a non-Muslim British man while on a visit to London. She became pregnant the following year and persuaded her husband to allow her to fly to the U.K. to give birth. She is said to have had no contact with her Saudi family since.

The Home Office in London declined to confirm or deny that the princess had been granted asylum.

"We're not commenting on individual cases at the moment," Richard Knight, a Home Office spokesperson, told The Media Line.

While the British government does not release statistics on Saudi Arabian asylum seekers, the number of applicants is believed to be low. Cases of Saudis requesting asylum are kept under wraps by both governments.

British law requires asylum seekers to prove that they are unable to return to their country of citizenship due to a number of factors.

"There are three levels of law that apply - British, European and international law," Jacob Lagnado, a research officer at the U.K. based Information Centre about Asylum and Refugees, told The Media Line. "But basically you have to show that you have a well-founded fear of persecution."

"People can be granted asylum on the basis of all kinds of factors but women's rights has been quite controversial as a basis for asylum claims," Lagnado saidd. "Women fleeing domestic violence, for example, has been an issue which has gone back and forth and it has not always been clear as to whether such violence can be considered as a basis for asylum."

"The British government does not produce statistics on the basis upon which refugees claim asylum," he added.

The Saudi princess was rumoured to have been granted permanent leave to remain in the U.K. but asylum experts say that while refugee status used to be granted for life, the U.K. has developed a system by which applicants who succeed in their request for asylum are first given one of three temporary statuses: refugee status; "humanitarian protection" for a period of up to five years; or "discretionary leave to remain" for a period of up to three years.

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