Australia condemns Qatari authorities over ‘grossly disturbing’ strip-searches
Written by Rother Radio News on 26/10/2020
Australia has condemned Qatari authorities over “grossly disturbing” reports that women were subjected to invasive strip-searches before a flight from Doha to Sydney.
The women, including 13 Australians, were searched in an ambulance after a newborn baby was found abandoned in a terminal toilet at Hamad International Airport on 2 October.
Australia’s foreign affairs department described the treatment of the group as inappropriate and beyond circumstances in which they could give free and informed consent.
“This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events,” foreign minister Marise Payne said.
“It’s not something that I’ve ever heard of occurring in my life, in any context.
“We have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities on this matter.”
Australia will await a report from the Qatari government before they determine the next steps, Ms Payne said.
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 taken off the delayed Qatar Airways flight and examined in an ambulance parked on the tarmac, Australia’s 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,” Mr Babeck told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
“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.”
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.
© Sky News 2020