Canberra, October 26
Australia on Monday condemned Qatar authorities’ treatment of women passengers on a flight to Sydney who were subjected to internal examinations after a newborn baby was found abandoned at a Doha airport.
The women, including 13 Australians, were examined at Hamad International Airport on October 2 after Qatar Airways Flight QR908 to Sydney was delayed.
Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade described the treatment of the women as offensive, grossly inappropriate and beyond circumstances in which they could give free and informed consent.
“The Australian government is deeply concerned at the unacceptable treatment of some female passengers,” a department statement said.
“The government has formally registered our serious concerns about this incident with Qatari authorities. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is engaged on this matter through diplomatic channels,” the statement added.
Hamad International Airport management said the baby was safe and being cared for by medical and social workers.
Medical professionals were concerned for the mother’s health after the infant was found and had requested she be located, the airport said in a statement.
“Individuals who had access to a specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the query,” the statement added.
The women were examined in an ambulance parked on the tarmac, Seven Network News reported.
Wolfgang Babeck, who was returning home to Australia on the flight, said women were taken from the plane regardless of their age.
“When the women came back, many of them or probably all of them were upset. One of them was in tears, a younger woman, and people couldn’t believe what had happened,” Babeck told ABC.
“They told me they had to take their underwear off or their clothes from the bottom and then it was inspected whether they had given birth,” Babeck added.
The passengers went into 14 days hotel quarantine on arrival in Sydney.
State-owned Qatar Airways told Guardian Australia it had not been contacted by any of the passengers on the flight and said it could not comment.
“We appreciate the concerns and distress expressed to you by the Australian passengers who you have spoken to and will be investigating these matters with relevant authorities and officials,” a spokeswoman said. — AP