Foreign Minister Marise Payne has condemned the invasive physical search of 13 Australian women at Doha Airport as “grossly disturbing”.
The women were among a number of female passengers “searched” by Qatari authorities when a premature baby was found in an airport bathroom earlier this month.
Ms Payne said the Federal Government was awaiting a report on the incident from Qatari officials.
“Australia has taken the occurrence seriously and taken up directly with Qatari authorities. We have been liaising with both Qatari authorities here in Australia and in Doha,” she said.
Senator Payne said she had never heard of such an incident and understood the matter had been reported to the Australian Federal Police (AFP).
“We also understand that the matter has been reported to the AFP and that matter, anything further on that as a matter for the Federal Police to this is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events,” she said.
Authorities are accused of detaining women on-board the flight before forcing them to undergo an inspection in an ambulance on the tarmac, without telling them why.
A passenger who was on board at the time said the women were “crying and disturbed” after what’s been described as a “blatant violation of human rights”.
Passenger Dr Wolfgang Babeck told Today those on board were sitting on the plane for three hours at the airport with rumours circulating it was closed, when the women on board were asked to disembark.
“We were wondering what was going on, whether the vulnerable people are removed but, in fact, it turned out totally different as we now heard,” Dr Baback said.
“There were people coming on the plane to look for other passengers with which may have been hiding. But, in fact, the women then returned a bit later, very disturbed.”
He said the women were unable to comprehend what had happened, and were left crying and upset.
“And this of course could be a blatant violation of human rights… (it needs to be)clarified what actually happened there. And what actually happened there. And what did they say actually happened to them,” Dr Baback said.
“The Australian Government is deeply concerned at the unacceptable treatment of some female passengers on a recent Qatar Airways flight at Doha Airport,” DFAT said in a statement this morning.
“The advice that has been provided indicates that the treatment of the women concerned was offensive, grossly inappropriate, and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent.
“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.”
9News understands Australian authorities have spoken to the Qatari Ambassador.
The mother has not yet been identified while the child is being cared for by social workers, a statement issued by Hamad International Airport said.
“Medical professionals expressed concern to officials about the health and welfare of a mother who had just given birth and requested she be located prior to departing HIA,” the airport said.
“Individuals who had access to the specific area of the airport where the new born infant was found were asked to assist in the query.
“At this time, the newborn infant remains unidentified, but is safe under the professional care of medical and social workers.”