Sydney, Jan 10 (AP/UNB) — Australian police arrested a man after 38 suspicious packages containing a possibly hazardous substance were sent to foreign consulates in the Australian cities of Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney.
The 48-year-old was arrested at his home in Shepparton, Victoria state, on Wednesday night, and charged with sending dangerous articles to be carried by a postal service, police said. He was due to appear in Melbourne Magistrates Court later on Thursday.
Around 10 diplomatic missions, mostly in Melbourne, on Wednesday reported the delivery of suspicious packages, some of them labelled "asbestos." The missions included those from the United States, Britain, India, South Korea, Pakistan, Israel, Switzerland and Greece.
This followed the discovery and removal on Monday of a suspicious package at the Argentinian Consulate in Sydney.
Australian Federal Police and Victoria Police said in a joint statement they will allege the substance in the packages was sourced from the man's Shepparton home.
"Police have so far recovered 29 of these packages, with forensic testing to be undertaken on them to determine the exact composition of the material in them," the statement said.
"Police have identified all intended recipients and have put processes in place to recover the outstanding packages. There is no ongoing threat to the general public," it added.
Sydney, Jan 10 (AP/UNB) — Four women held a topless protest in Sydney on Thursday to support runaway Saudi woman Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun, as Australia began considering her bid to settle in the country as a refugee.
Alqunun was on Wednesday deemed a refugee by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, after being detained in Bangkok en route to Australia. The 18-year-old publicized her case via social media after barricading herself in her Bangkok hotel room, saying she feared for her safety if sent back to her family in Saudi Arabia.
In downtown Sydney on Thursday morning, four women, dressed only in jeans and calling themselves the Secret Sisterhood, protested outside the building housing the Saudi Consulate, calling on Australia to grant Alqunun residency.
With "Secret Sisterhood" written on their backs, the women held placards with messages including "Let her in," ''Rahaf Sisterhood Hero" and "All women free + safe."
Secret Sisterhood founder Jacquie Love said the protest was held to urge the Australian government to recognize Alqunun's plight, and that of oppressed women everywhere.
"We are here to encourage them to let her in," Love said. "She's been recognized by the U.N. as a refugee so we believe the Australian government needs to step up, recognize her plight and recognize what she's gone through, and she could be an icon for the rest of the world that women shouldn't be oppressed and they should be fleeing countries that they are oppressed in."
"We decided to go topless because we believe all women should be able to express themselves freely and safely and we wanted to send a message to Rahaf that we can actually do that in Australia, that women can actually be free and safe," Love said.
Secret Sisterhood has also set up a GoFundMe account, which had raised $2,290 dollars for Alqunun by Thursday morning.
Alqunun's case has highlighted the cause of women's rights in Saudi Arabia. Several female Saudis fleeing abuse by their families have been caught trying to seek asylum abroad in recent years and returned home. Human rights activists say many more similar cases will have gone unreported.
After mounting a campaign for assistance on Twitter from her Bangkok airport hotel, Alqunun was allowed to temporarily stay in Thailand under the care of the U.N. refugee agency, which ruled her claim for asylum valid and referred her case to Australia. Following that decision, Australia's Home Affairs Department said it would "consider this referral in the usual way, as it does with all UNHCR referrals."
Alqunun's father arrived in Bangkok on Tuesday, but his daughter refused to meet with him.
Thailand's Immigration Police chief Lt. Gen. Surachate Hakparn said the father — whose name has not been released — denied physically abusing Alqunun or trying to force her into an arranged marriage, which were among the reasons she gave for her flight.
Surachate said Alqunun's father wanted his daughter back but respected her decision. Surachate described the father as being a governor in Saudi Arabia.
"He has 10 children. He said the daughter might feel neglected sometimes," Surachate said. "But he didn't go into detail."
Before the U.N. agency's decision to refer her case to Australia, the country's Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton said there would be no "special treatment" for her.
However, Health Minister Greg Hunt, also speaking before the U.N.'s decision, said: "If she is found to be a refugee, then we will give very, very, very serious consideration to a humanitarian visa."
Bangkok, Jan 9(AP/UNB) — Australia says it is considering granting a Saudi woman who fled from her family refugee resettlement based on referral by the U.N.
The Department of Home Affairs confirmed in a statement on Wednesday that the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees had referred Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun to Australia for consideration for refugee settlement.
Alqunun arrived in Bangkok on a flight from Kuwait on Saturday. After first being detained by Thai authorities, she refused to board a flight back to Kuwait, barricading herself in a hotel room. She publicized her case via social media, saying she feared for her safety if made to return home to her family.
She was later placed in the care of UNHCR workers while her bid for refugee status was considered.
Thai police say a Saudi woman who fled her family to seek asylum abroad has refused to meet with her father in Thailand.
Thailand's immigration police chief says Rahaf Mohammed Alqunun's father and brother arrived together in Bangkok on Tuesday but Alqunun has refused to meet them.
Alqunun arrived in Bangkok from Kuwait late Saturday but was denied entry by Thai officials. Following urgent pleas for help she made over Twitter, she has since been allowed to temporarily stay in Thailand under the care of the U.N.'s refugee agency that will determine her protection claim.
Immigration police chief Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn says U.N. officials expect that the case will be concluded in a few days.
Sydney, Jan 9 (AP/UNB) — Several foreign consulates in Melbourne were evacuated Wednesday as Australian officials noted they were responding to multiple "hazardous material" events in the city.
The Australian Federal Police said that police and emergency services were examining suspicious packages delivered to the foreign consulates.
"The circumstances surrounding these incidents are being investigated," the police said in a statement.
The government Vic Emergency website noted at least 10 "hazardous material" incidents.
Police, fire crews and ambulances were seen at a number of diplomatic offices, including those of India, Italy, Spain and Germany.
The incidents come after a suspicious package was intercepted at the Argentine consulate in Sydney on Monday. Police there took away a sample of a substance for testing, the results of which have yet to be revealed.
Australia, Nov 27 (AP/UNB) — A wildfire stoked by heatwave conditions in northeast Australia has destroyed at least four homes, forced the evacuation of hundreds of others and razed 20,000 hectares (49,000 acres) of farmland and woodland, authorities said Tuesday.
Police had been knocking on doors of homes in the small rural communities of Baffle Creek, Deepwater, Oyster Creek and Rules Beach in Queensland state to advise residents to evacuate but some were refusing, Gladstone Region Mayor Matt Burnett said.
"When you have a police officer knock at your door saying a fire is coming, it is time to get out — it's serious," Burnett said. "There is no one in that area that is safe to stay," he added.
Hundreds of firefighters were preparing for worse conditions on Wednesday, when temperatures are expected to reach 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) with winds reaching 40 kph (25 mph).
Large swathes of Queensland were experiencing record high November temperatures and the heat wave will continue for days, Bureau of Meteorology state manager Bruce Gunn said.
"This really has been an exceptional — and still is an exceptional — heat and fire event in Queensland," he said.
"We've seen all-time temperature records absolutely shattered — records that have stood for 60 or 70 years," he added.
Queensland Fire and Emergency Services Commissioner Katarina Carroll said the perimeter of the fire that began on Saturday had expanded to 66 kilometers (41 miles).