Australian authorities on Monday (26/10) expressed “serious concern” towards Qatar over the “extremely disturbing” and “offensive” treatment of 13 Australian women at Hamad International Airport, Doha, Qatar earlier this month.
The women who were passengers in the airline Qatar Airways, which flew to Sydney on 2 October, were subjected to an invasive search on the runway after the discovery of a newborn abandoned in an airport toilet.
Wolfgang Babeck, a passenger on the flight, told Australian broadcaster of ABC, that the women were taken off the plane regardless of their age. “They told me they should take off their underwear, or their clothes from underneath, and then check whether they have given birth or not,” Babeck said.
“When the women came back, many of them, or maybe all of them, were upset. One of them, a younger woman, was crying. People couldn’t believe what had happened,” Babeck added.
From the same flight and several other flights, a number of women of other nationalities were also reported to have undergone an invasive examination.
‘Annoying and offensive’
“This is a series of events that are very, very disturbing and offensive,” Australian Foreign Minister, Marise Payne told reporters. “This is something I have never heard of has happened in my life and in any context. We have explained our views to the authorities from Qatar on this matter.”
Payne said the Australian government would wait for a report from the Qatari government before “determining its next steps.”
She said the women had received “appropriate assistance” when they went into quarantine upon arrival in Australia.
Hamad International Airport officials did not deny the incident occurred. However, they said that the female passenger was “asked to help” in the search for the mother of the baby.
They said they were looking for the mother because medical professionals concerned about her health after the baby was found.
“The newborn remains unidentified, but is under professional care from medical and social workers,” the airport authority said.