By Tamara Qiblawi, CNN
Updated at 0720 GMT (1520 HKT) February 3, 2019
Saudi refugees on the rise
The number of Saudi refugees globally has increased in recent years. In 1993, the first year with recorded cases of Saudi asylum-seekers, there were seven Saudi refugees, according to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR). They took up residence in Jordan, Greece and Sweden.According to the UNHCR's latest public records, Saudi refugees and asylum-seekers totaled 2,392 in 2017. Five countries hosted the majority of these Saudis: the United States (1,143), Canada (453), Australia (191), the United Kingdom (184) and Germany (147).The figure ebbed and flowed from 1993 onwards. It spiked in 2006 and tapered in ensuing years. The number of Saudi refugees rose again after the 2011 Arab Spring, which spurred unrest in the kingdom's eastern province.
The Arabia Foundation's Shihabi said he's skeptical that women could be leaving Saudi Arabia because of current political conditions. Social reforms introduced by MBS have improved women's conditions in the kingdom "dramatically," he said.He said the frequency of reported women's escapes in recent months could be due, instead, to greater willingness for Western countries to host asylum-seekers in the aftermath of the Khashoggi fallout. "There's an appetite in the world with the demonization that's happening to Saudi Arabia that creates more opportunities (for asylum)," said Shihabi.