Australian authorities are investigating a disturbing report that a group of female passengers on a recent Qatar Airways flight to Sydney were removed from the plane before takeoff and subjected to an invasive search after a newborn baby had was found abandoned at an airport in Qatar.
The women, including 13 Australians, were forced to undergo medical examinations at Hamad International Airport on October 2 after their flight to Sydney was delayed, the Associated Press reports. According to The Guardian, the women were ordered out of the plane and subjected to a “strip search” in an ambulance parked on the tarmac, apparently after the premature baby was found at Doha airport.
Australian Foreign Minister Marine Payne called the “offensive” incident “very disturbing” and said it had since been reported to federal police.
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“This is an extremely, extremely disturbing, offensive set of events,” Payne said at a press conference Monday. “It’s not something I’ve ever heard of in my life, in any context. We have made our point of view very clear to the Qatari authorities on this issue. “
Now Australian officials are waiting for a word from the Qatari government before determining next steps, Payne said.
As of now, the unidentified baby remains in the care of medical and social workers, the Associated Press reports.
Dr Wolfgang Babeck was one of 34 passengers aboard Flight 908 and testified that the carrier had asked all women on board to disembark, reports the Guardian. Most of the women were in shock when they returned, he said.
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“When the women came back many 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 said. “They told me they had to take off their underwear or their clothes from the bottom, and then it was inspected if they had given birth.”
The passenger alleged that the airline had not provided any explanation for the delay of more than three hours nor explained why the women were ordered to leave the plane in the first place. Babeck said the exams were conducted by a woman.
A spokesperson for Qatar Airways did not immediately return Fox News’ request for comment.
The Associated Press reports that sex outside of marriage is a criminal act in Qatar, as in much of the Middle East. In the past, migrant workers have had hidden pregnancies and attempted to travel abroad to give birth, while others have abandoned their babies anonymously to avoid prison.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.