The Australian government has urged the UNHCR to expedite the refugee application of Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun

Australia has said it will carefully consider granting a visa to Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun if she’s found to be a refugee by the United Nations.

On Tuesday evening, the Department of Home Affairs confirmed it has maderepresentations to the Thai government and the Bangkok office of the UNHCR about “its serious concerns on this matter and the need for Ms Al-Qunun’s claim to be assessed expeditiously.”

The 18-year-old Saudi woman who barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to prevent her forcible return to a family she claims will kill her, has been taken under the protection of the UN high commissioner for refugees in Thailand.

Qunun was detained on arrival at Bangkok and denied entry to Thailand while en route to Australia,where she said she intended to seek asylum. The Guardian confirmed on Monday Qunun had a valid three-month tourist visa for Australia, issued to her Saudi passport.

Human Rights Watch had earlier called on Australia’s government to clarify the status of the visa of the Saudi teenager amid concerns that it had been cancelled. A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said, “Whether someone holds a visitor visa does not have a bearing on this process.”

But there were reports from Qunun supporters that her visa to Australia has been cancelled.

Nourah Alharbi, a 20-year-old friend of Qunun who recently moved from  Saudi Arabia to Australia, said the visa had been cancelled.

“We found out they cancelled the tourist visa,” she said. “It was a tourist visa and now they’ve cancelled it. I don’t know [the reason] because they’re not answering.”

The Human Rights Watch Australian director, Elaine Pearson, said Australia has a moral obligation to help Qunun.

“Foreign governments, including Australia, that are concerned about human rights should be doubling down and offering support,” she said, adding that the response for the federal government and opposition had been disappointing so far.

“The government has said that promoting women’s rights is a priority as part of its foreign policy; well here’s a concrete case where they can protect a young woman’s life, and the government should be seizing that opportunity and making its views widely known.”

Labor’s immigration spokesman Shayne Neumann declined to comment on the visa.

He told reporters in Brisbane on Tuesday he had been in contact with Coleman’s office and was satisfied with the level of support from the federal government.

“She’s got an application she’s making with the UNHCR with refugee status. I won’t preempt the outcome of that particular process,” he said. It’s expected to take the UN about five days to assess Qunun’s application for refugee status. If successful, she will be sent to a third country.

Alharbi said Qunun had been sustained throughout her “terrifying” ordeal on Monday by thousands of people who expressed support for her on social media.

“Yesterday, they made the difference in Rahaf’s life. You saved Rahaf’s life yesterday: the people, the media.

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