Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 6 December 2020

Australian leader pushes Qatar on ‘appalling’ airport search

Qatar apologises for 'strip-search' as Australia confirms five other foreign nationals were also subjected to invasive medical examination

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison is seeking guarantees from Doha that it will never again conduct invasive strip-searches of passengers after a number of women on a Qatar Airways flight were subjected to “appalling” treatment.

Thirteen Australian women and five other foreign nationals, including a French citizen, were pulled off a Sydney-bound flight at Doha’s Hamad International Airport on October 2 and strip-searched after staff found a newborn baby in a terminal bathroom.

Authorities at the airport conducted the medical examinations in an ambulance within the airport complex and fellow passengers reported the women returning shaken and crying from the experience.

Mr Morrison said the invasive treatment of the women was “unacceptable” and “appalling” and that the government would “continue to take a very strident approach” to getting answers and ensuring there will be no repeat.

“There is no doubt in the mind of whether it’s Qatari airlines or the government, about Australia’s strong objections and views about this and I think those views are shared, widely, so we will make a further response once we have the opportunity to see the results of that investigation," the prime minister said.

“As a father of daughters, I could only shudder at the thought that any woman, Australian or otherwise, would be subjected to that."

Doha has apologised in the wake of the outrage over the matter, saying that it “regrets any distress or infringement on the personal freedom of any traveller” as a result of the “urgently-decided search”.

Australian Foreign Minister and Minister for Women Marise Payne on Wednesday called the incident “grossly disturbing, offensive and concerning”.

The New South Wales Transport Workers' Union is also suggesting a boycott of Qatar Airways, meaning that union members would not service the company’s aircraft that land at Sydney airport.

Such a move could be effective next week, said union chief Richard Olsen.

However, contrary to Qatar’s claim that the search was conducted “urgently,” police at the airport reportedly took women off flights at random, delaying departures for hours and affecting 10 aircraft that were preparing for take-off.

Australia has requested that the Qatari government share its report into the incident with the Australian Federal Police.

Qatar said on Wednesday that the baby was found in a rubbish bin at Hamad International Airport, “concealed in a plastic bag and buried under garbage”.

“The infant is now safe under medical care in Doha.”

Updated: October 28, 2020 01:58 PM

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