Qatar under pressure as Britain joins outrage at strip search of women

UK ‘formally expresses concern’ after two Britons were among women in Doha airport ordeal

Qatar apologises, investigates forced airport strip-search

Qatar apologises, investigates forced airport strip-search
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Two British women were among a group of travellers subjected to “offensive and grossly inappropriate” strip searches by Qatari authorities who were looking for the mother of an abandoned baby.

The UK said the ordeal was “unacceptable” and warned an incident of this nature “cannot happen again”.

The forced internal examinations caused outrage in Australia this week after 13 of its citizens were told to disembark a Qatar Airways flight in Doha without explanation.

The women were led to a waiting ambulance where they were told to remove their underwear so they could be examined by a female medical officer to determine if they had recently given birth.

It is understood the women were not told why they had to undergo the compulsory examination.

Qatari authorities later said the searches were prompted by the discovery of a new-born baby placed in a bin at Doha airport.

The mother has not been found but the baby is alive and in the care of Qatari authorities.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office confirmed two British citizens were among 18 who were searched.

A spokeswoman said: “We are providing ongoing support to two British women following an incident in Doha.

“We have formally expressed our concern with the Qatari authorities and Qatar Airways and are seeking assurances an unacceptable incident like this cannot happen again.”

Australian officials said passengers from 10 flights leaving Doha on October 2 were affected, but it is not clear if the British women were on the flight to Sydney or on another plane.

This image made from Oct. 2, 2020 surveillance camera footage obtained by the website Doha News shows officials care for an abandoned baby at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar. Qatar apologized Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2020, after authorities forcibly examined female passengers from a Qatar Airways flight to Sydney to try to identify who might have given birth to the abandoned newborn baby, even as Australia said it was only one of 10 flights subjected to the searches. (Doha News via AP)
Airport officials care for an abandoned baby found in a bin at Hamad International Airport in Doha. AP 

Qatar broke its silence on the issue on Wednesday after becoming embroiled in a diplomatic row with Australia.

The Qatari government said it “regretted any distress or infringement on the personal freedom of any traveller”.

It said the “urgently-decided search” was to stop the mother of the abandoned baby from “escaping”.

A statement said: “His Excellency Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, the Prime Minister and Minister of Interior of the State of Qatar has directed that a comprehensive, transparent investigation into the incident be conducted.

“The results of the investigation will be shared with our international partners.

“The State of Qatar remains committed to ensuring the safety, security and comfort of all travellers transiting through the country.”

Australia said the “absolutely terrifying” searches should never have happened.

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

Foreign Minister Marise Payne said: “The treatment of the women concerned was offensive, grossly inappropriate and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent.”