Earlier this month, a premature baby was found alive at the Hamad International Airport in Doha and a flight to Sydney was held up while authorities tried to look for the baby’s mother.
Passengers say all the women on board, including 13 Australians, were detained and forced to have an invasive medical examination in an ambulance on the tarmac. However, despite the forced ‘strip-search,’ the mother was not found.
The women were allowed later on to depart and then complained about the incident while in hotel quarantine after returning to Australia.
Wolfgang Babeck, who was on the flight, said in an ABC news report that many of the women were distressed when they returned to the plane.
“When the women came back, many of them or probably all of them were upset – one of them was in tears, a younger woman,” Babeck told the ABC. “People couldn’t believe what had happened.”
A source in Doha briefed on the incident said that ‘(officials) were forcing women to undergo invasive body searches – basically forced Pap smears.’
Foreign Minister Marise Payne has expressed ‘serious concerns’ to Qatari officials and is awaiting a report to find out exactly what happened. Payne said the events were ‘grossly disturbing, offensive and deeply concerning’.
It is known that none of the women were told about the abandoned baby prior to the humiliating forced physical examination.
Speaking about the incident, 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 the officials to find her.
“Individuals who had access to a specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the query,” airport management told the ABC.
According to an Australian federal government spokesperson, the treatment of the women was 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 on a recent Qatar Airways flight at Doha Airport,” the spokesman 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.”