Saudi sisters fear deportation from Hong Kong as deadline nears

The sisters, who are in hiding since September, fear deportation to Saudi Arabia as February 28 deadline ends.

    The sisters from Saudi Arabia, who go by aliases Reem and Rawan, at their lawyer's office in Hong Kong [Aleksander Solum/Reuters]
    The sisters from Saudi Arabia, who go by aliases Reem and Rawan, at their lawyer's office in Hong Kong [Aleksander Solum/Reuters]

    Two Saudi sisters who have been hiding in Hong Kong since September face an uncertain future on the last day of their permitted stay in the autonomous Chinese city.

    "We're terrified that we'll be forced to return to Saudi Arabia," they said on Twitter under the handle HKSaudiSisters on Wednesday, a day before the end of their permit to stay in Hong Kong.

    "We applied for an emergency rescue visa for a 3rd country over two months ago. We [had] hoped that our emergency visa [would] be granted without delay."

    The sisters, who say they have converted to Christianity, claim they fled from a family holiday in Sri Lanka to Hong Kong, from where they had hoped to board a connecting flight to Australia.

    They claimed on Twitter that they were intercepted at Hong Kong airport by Saudi officials and have since gone into hiding. The pair, who have been identified as Reem and Rawan, claimed to have moved 13 times to avoid detection.

    They said Saudi Arabia cancelled their passports but they were afraid to go to the Hong Kong consulate to renew them.

    Hong Kong is not a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention and would-be asylum seekers often languish for years as they wait to be sent to a third country.

    Hong Kong's immigration department told DPA news agency that it does not comment on individual cases.

    Michael Vidler, a Hong Kong lawyer representing the sisters, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

    The two sisters are not the first to flee Saudi Arabia and seek assistance via social media

    Such cases appear to be on the rise, with the two sisters' story emerging a month after 18-year-old Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed drew international attention with her dramatic escape from an allegedly abusive family to eventually gain refugee status in Canada.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies