Australian authorities 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 was found abandoned in a Qatar airport.
The women, including 13 Australians, were forced to receive medical examinations at Hamad International Airport on Oct. 2 after their flight to Sydney was delayed, the Associated Press reports. According to The Guardian, the women were ordered to exit the plane and subjected to a “strip search” in an ambulance parked on the tarmac, apparently after the premature baby was found in the Doha airport.
Australian Foreign Minister Marine Payne slammed the “offensive” incident as "grossly disturbing" and said it has since been reported to federal police.
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“This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events,” Payne said at a Monday press conference. “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.”
Australian Foreign Minister Marine Payne, pictured, slammed the “offensive” incident as "grossly disturbing" and said it has since been reported to federal police. (Lukas Coch/AAP Image via AP)
Now, Australian officials are awaiting 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 among the 34 passengers aboard flight 908 and attested that the carrier instructed all women on board to deplane, the Guardian reports. Most of the women were in shock when they returned, he said.
“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 said. “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.”
The passenger alleged that the airline offered no explanation for the three-plus hour delay or explained why the women were ordered to leave the plane in the first place. Babeck said that the examinations 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, like much of the Middle East. In the past, female migrant workers have hidden pregnancies and tried to travel abroad to give birth, while others have annonymusly abandoned their babies to to avoid prison.
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The Associated Press contributed to this report.