Women on Qatar Airways flight strip-searched, given invasive exam

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Women on a Qatar Airways flight bound for Sydney, Australia, were made to disembark and undergo a strip search and physical examination after a newborn was discovered in a bathroom at Hamad International Airport, according to a report in The New York Times.

The women on the flight were sent to ambulances where they were strip-searched and given invasive exams to determine if one of them had recently given birth, according to accounts from some of the women and officials from the Australian government.

The Australian government has described the incident as unacceptable, according to a report in The Guardian. 

“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,” said a spokesperson for the Australian government quoted by the news outlet.

According to the Times, at least 13 of the women on the flight were Australian. 

One 31-year-old Australian nurse, identified by only her first name Jessica, told the Times: “I was scared. We were all, like, ‘Can someone please tell us what is happening?’”

She says when she asked what was going on, a female examiner told her, “A baby has been found in a bin, and we need to test you.”

A spokesperson for Hamad International Airport in Doha said that “medical professionals” had “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 H.I.A.”

“Individuals who had access to the specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the query,” the spokesperson quoted by the Times said.

The airport says the newborn baby who was found is currently being taken care of but has not yet been identified.

Australian officials said during a news conference Monday that they are currently awaiting a report from Qatari officials about the incident and will proceed with their next steps once it has been received.

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