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  • Sisters from Saudi Arabia, who go by aliases Reem and Rawan, are pictured at an office in Hong Kong, China.

    Sisters from Saudi Arabia, who go by aliases Reem and Rawan, are pictured at an office in Hong Kong, China. | Photo: Reuters

Published 28 February 2019

Two Saudi sisters fled to Hong Kong to escape an abusive family but they now fear deportation as the deadline to leave the country nears.

Two Saudi sisters fleeing what they described as beatings in their home country face a deadline for deportation from Hong Kong within hours unless authorities extend their stay.

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"We're terrified that we'll be forced to return to Saudi Arabia," they said on Twitter under the handle HKSaudiSisters Wednesday.

"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 pair, aged 18 and 20, whose identities have not been revealed in a bid to secure their safety, say they could face death if they are deported.

Their lawyer, Michael Vidler, said the immigration department had acknowledged their request and were hopeful a visa extension beyond Thursday's deadline would be granted.

The sisters arrived in Hong Kong in September 2018 after running away from a family holiday in Sri Lanka from where they hoped to go to Australia. They have applied for asylum in an unidentified third country.

While fleeing through Hong Kong, they were prevented from boarding a flight to Australia and were intercepted by Saudi Arabian diplomats, the sisters said.

They managed to escape and enter the city as visitors with permission to stay until Thursday. Since then, they have been in hiding and claimed to have moved 13 times to avoid detection.

According to them, Saudi Arabia canceled their passports but they were afraid to go to the Hong Kong consulate for a renewal.

Amnesty International Thursday urged Hong Kong authorities not to return the sisters to Saudi Arabia.

"This would place them in grave danger," said Kate Schuetze, Amnesty's refugee researcher. "They fled the kingdom after repeated abuse by male relatives and they are at real risk of serious human rights violations if they are forcibly returned."

This is the second time this year that Saudi women fleeing an oppressive patriarchal society. In January Rahaf Mohammed, another Saudi teenager fleed the country and she barricaded herself in a Bangkok airport hotel room to resist being sent home to her family.

The United Nations High Commission on Refugees granted her refugee status, and Canada agreed to take her in.

The case has drawn global attention to Saudi Arabia's strict social rules for women, including a requirement that women have a male guardian’s permission to travel, which rights groups say can trap women and girls as prisoners of abusive families.

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