The Australian government is investigating claims from female passengers aboard a Qatar Airways flight who said they were stripped and searched.
The adult women on the Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Sydney said they were checked for signs of recent childbirth after a newborn baby was found and abandoned in a toilet at Hamad International Airport.
At least thirteen women were reportedly ordered to immediately take their passports and disembark, where they met with an ambulance on the tarmac. The women were told to remove their underwear before given an invasive medical exam.
A 60-year-old woman who was taken off the plane told the Guardian that the experience was “horrifying.” She ended up not being searched, she suspects to her age.
“My legs were just wobbling. I was terrified they were going to take me away somewhere. Why didn’t they explain to us what was going on?” said Kim Mills, adding that airplane staff later told her they didn’t know what was happening.
“It was absolutely terrible. I can’t imagine what it was like for those poor young girls.”
The exam took place on Oct. 2, but the incident was brought to light after some women spoke to the Australian news station Channel 7 News.
Now, Australian officials are demanding answers from Qatar Airways.
“The Australian government is deeply concerned at the unacceptable treatment of some female passengers on a recent Qatar Airways flight at Doha Airport,” authorities told the New York Times in a statement. The government called the passengers’ treatment “offensive, grossly inappropriate and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent.”
The incident has been forwarded to the Australian Federal Police, who will determine the next steps.