Two Saudi sisters who became stranded in Hong Kong whilst fleeing abuse back home have made a last-minute appeal to remain to local authorities amid fears of deportation.

On Thursday, their lawyer Michael Vidler said they had appealed to the Immigration Department “to allow the sisters to continue to remain in Hong Kong as ‘tolerated overstayers’ on humanitarian grounds pending determination of their emergency rescue visas to a third country place of safety. The current period of permission expires at the end of today.”

Reem and Rawan saudi sisters
Rawan and Reem. Photo: Tom Grundy/HKFP.

Rawan and Reem, who are using pseudonyms out of safety concerns, told HKFP last Friday that they would risk further domestic abuse, legal action or even a so-called “honour killing” at the hands of their relatives for renouncing Islam if they were deported back to the Kingdom. The pair fled a family holiday in Sri Lanka and boarded a flight to Australia last September but became stranded in Hong Kong after an apparent intervention by the Saudi consulate.

The women, aged 18 and 20, have been shuttled between 13 different safehouses out of security concerns since arriving in the city. During an interview last Friday, the pair said they have reasons to believe they are being followed by Saudi agents.

In a Facebook statement on Friday, the sisters said: “We are in fear every day we are in Hong Kong. We want to leave to a third country place of safety as soon as possible. We desperately hope that this will happen very soon and that the Hong Kong government will continue to allow us to stay here until then. We thank the international community for the support we have received and ask you all to keep supporting us until we find a safe new home.”

Saudi authorities invalidated the women’s passports last year.

Human rights NGO Amnesty International has spoken out against their potential deportation: “Don’t send them back,” the group urged.

Vidler said that their request had been acknowledged by the immigration authorities: “We are hopeful this extension will be allowed and that their application for an emergency rescue visa be granted soon.”

jennifer creery

Jennifer Creery

Jennifer Creery is a Hong Kong-born British journalist, interested in minority rights and urban planning. She holds a BA in English at King's College London and has studied Mandarin at National Taiwan University.