Women on 10 separate flights in Qatar forced to endure strip searches after baby found in airport bin

WOMEN on 10 flights were forced to endure strip searches at Qatar airport after a baby was found in a bin, the Australian government has said.

The news comes after it emerged 18 woman on a Qatar Airways flight to Sydney were dragged off by security agents as it was waiting to depart.

The Australian government has expressed outrage at what Foreign Affairs Minister Marise Payne described at the “grossly disturbing and offensive” searches.

The incident happened at Doha’s Hamad International Airport on October 2 but has now come to light after two of the women described their ordeal to Australia’s ABC broadcaster.

Payne has now revealed that the scale of the incident went beyond a single flight.

She told a Senate committee that women on "10 aircraft in total" had been subject to the searches, including women on flight QR 908 to Sydney.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also weighed in on the controversy describing the treatment of the women as "appalling" and "unacceptable".

"As a father of a daughter, I could only shudder at the thought that anyone would, Australian or otherwise, would be subjected to that," he said

'APPALLING'

He added that"Australia's strong objections and views" had been expressed to Qatar.

Officials told a government committee Australia was working closely with the other countries whose citizens were affected, without naming them.

"Other countries affected absolutely share Australia's views and the strength of Australia's views," said Frances Adamson, secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.

"This is not by any standard normal behaviour and the Qataris recognise that, are appalled by it, do not want it to happen again."

Australia was notified of the incident by one of its female diplomats who was on the flight who "shocked at what happened" though she herself wasn’t searched.

In Qatar, like much of the Middle East, sex outside of marriage is a criminal act.

Migrant workers in the past have hidden pregnancies and tried to travel abroad to give birth, and others have abandoned their babies anonymously to avoid prison.

The Qatari government as expressed "regret" over the searches, which stemmed from a baby being found in a airport rubbish bin.

REGRET

In a statement it said the "aim of the urgently decided search was to prevent the perpetrators of the horrible crime from escaping".

The two women who spoke out about their ordeal have described their experience.

“No-one spoke English or told us what was happening. It was terrifying,” said one of the women.

“There were 13 of us and we were all made to leave. A mother near me had left her sleeping children on the plane, " said one of the women.

“There was an elderly woman who was vision impaired and she had to go too. I’m pretty sure she was searched.”

The other woman told the ABC she was taken to an ambulance and locked inside with a female nurse.

“They never explained anything. She told me to pull my pants down and that I needed to examine my vagina,” she said.

“I said ‘I’m not doing that’ and she did not explain anything to me. She just kept saying, ‘we need to see it, we need to see it’.”

She told the ABC she was forced to take off her clothes and was inspected and touched by the nurse.

“I was panicking. Everyone had gone white and was shaking,” she said.

TERRIFYING

“I was very scared at that point, I didn’t know what the possibilities were.”

Another passenger, Kim Mills, said she was among those taken off the flight and led into a dark car park.

Three ambulances were waiting to perform medical examinations but she was spared the experience suffered by the other women because she’s in her 60s.

"My legs were just wobbling. I was terrified they were going to take me away somewhere,” she told The Guardian.

“Why didn't they explain to us what was going on?" she said, adding that airplane staff later told her they didn't know what was happening.

I was panicking. Everyone had gone white and was shaking

"It was absolutely terrible. I can't imagine what it was like for those poor young girls."

As well as the Australians, a woman from France was also affected, and all received mental health support.

Payne said the "extraordinary incident" had also been reported to the Australian Federal Police.

"This is a grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events," she said.

"It is not something I have ever heard of occurring in my life, in any context. We have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities."

Hamad International Airport, which is part of the Qatar Airways Group, said the newborn found abandoned had not been identified and was receiving medical care.

"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 (the airport)," it said.

"Individuals who had access to the specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the query."

Qatar Airways have also been approached for comment.

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