Australia yesterday condemned Qatari authorities’ treatment of female passengers on a flight to Sydney who were subjected to internal examinations after a newborn baby was found abandoned at an airport in Doha.
The women, including 13 Australians, were examined at Hamad International Airport on Oct. 2 after Qatar Airways Flight 908 to Sydney was delayed.
The Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade described the treatment of the women as inappropriate and beyond circumstances in which they could give free and informed consent.
“This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events,” Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs Marise Payne told reporters. “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.”
Australia is waiting for a report from the Qatari government before “we will determine the next steps,” Payne said.
She said the matter was reported to Australian Federal Police, but did not explain what action police might take.
Police said in a statement they are working with the foreign affairs department on the matter and that further comment would be inappropriate.
The baby was still unidentified and was being cared for by medical and social workers, airport officials said in a statement.
Medical professionals were concerned for the mother’s health and had requested she be located, it said.
“Individuals who had access to a specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the query,” it added.
The statement did not acknowledge the forced examinations.
It is understood that in addition to the Australians, one French woman was also affected, one official said.
The women were examined in an ambulance parked on the tarmac, Seven Network News reported.
Wolfgang Babeck, who was returning home to Australia on the flight, said women were taken from the plane regardless of their age.
“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,” he added.
Babeck said no explanation was provided for why the departure was delayed for more than three hours or why women were required to leave the plane.
He said the examinations were conducted by a woman.
The women received medical and psychological support on arrival in Sydney, and began Australia’s mandatory 14-day hotel quarantine required for COVID-19 border control, a spokesman for health authorities in New South Wales said.
Qatar Airways and the Qatari government did not respond to questions as of press time.
In Qatar, sex outside of marriage is a criminal act. Female migrant workers in the past have hidden their pregnancies and tried to travel abroad to give birth. Others have abandoned their babies anonymously to avoid prison.
Additional reporting by Reuters
SIXTEEN LOCAL: Three COVID-19 infections are linked to a cluster at a gambling house in Yilan County, 10 to a case in New Taipei City and three had unclear sources The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday urged people to increase vigilance and thoroughly practice preventive measures against COVID-19 as it reported 16 locally transmitted cases of the disease. Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, said that 21 cases were confirmed in Taiwan yesterday: 16 local cases, four imported cases and one case undetermined. The locally transmitted cases are three linked to a cluster of infections at a gambling house in Yilan County, 10 associated with a previous case in New Taipei City and three with unclear sources of infection. The CECC on Tuesday reported a cluster
ENFORCING CAUTION: Certain entertainment facilities are to close nationwide to prevent people traveling there from high-risk areas in the north, the center said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday raised the COVID-19 alert for Taipei and New Taipei City to level 3 in light of surging cases in the two cities. The enhanced disease prevention measures for level 3 are to be implemented until May 28, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a morning news conference at the Executive Yuan in Taipei. With 180 locally transmitted cases confirmed yesterday, Premier Su Tseng-chang (蘇貞昌) said that the government must take immediate action to protect the public, referring to measures stipulated in the Communicable Disease Control Act (傳染病防治法). Other counties
TRACING TROUBLE: An infected man who had said that all his children were abroad was found to have a daughter in Kaohsiung who tested positive, the center said The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) yesterday reported a new daily record of 29 local COVID-19 cases, including seven cases with unknown sources of infection. Of the 29 cases, 16 are linked to tea houses in Taipei’s Wanhua District (萬華), Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center, told a news briefing in Taipei. The 16 are tea house workers or visitors, or their contacts, the CECC said. Workers and visitors to the establishments have frequent interpersonal contact, but few protective measures against the COVID-19 pandemic are in place, Chen said, urging those who have been exposed or have
RISING TRANSMISSION: The center yesterday reported 333 domestic cases, including 241 cases linked to a cluster of infections from Taipei’s Wanhua District From 12am tomorrow to June 18, foreign nationals who do not hold a valid Alien Resident Certificate or resident visa will not be allowed to enter Taiwan, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) announced yesterday, as it reported 333 local and two imported cases of COVID-19. Transits through Taiwan will also be suspended during the month-long period, said Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中), who heads the center. “The policy is aimed at conserving the nation’s disease prevention capacity,” he said. Although there had been few imported COVID-19 cases in the past few days, inbound travelers would still take up some