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Australian Anguish at Passenger Strip Searches in Qatar

Qatar Airways planes are seen parked at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, June 16, 2017.

The Australian Broadcasting Corporation reports Australia has formally complained about what it is calling the "offensive and grossly inappropriate" treatment of passengers at Doha airport in Qatar. The report says thirteen Australian women were taken off a flight to Sydney after a newborn baby was found in an airport bathroom and the travelers were forced to have invasive internal examinations.

Airport authorities say when a premature baby was discovered in a bathroom at the Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar, on October 2, all female passengers onboard a flight preparing to fly to Sydney were taken off the aircraft. The group included 13 Australian women.

They were taken to two ambulances waiting outside the airport and subjected to strip searches. Some of the women have told local media they were terrified and were not told why the examinations were being carried out.

The Australian Federal Police have been informed, although it is unclear what powers investigators might have over an incident that occurred in the Middle East.

Australian foreign minister Marise Payne says Australia has formally complained to Qatar.

“We also understand the matter has been reported to the Australian Federal Police. This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events. It is not something I have ever heard of occurring in my life in any context. We have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities on this matter,” Payne said.

Media reports have said the Australian women could take legal action against authorities in Qatar.

Australian Labor opposition leader Anthony Albanese says their treatment has been unbelievable.

“Reports of this treatment are really disturbing. The idea that women could be subject to these very intrusive searches is in my view an absolute disgrace," Albanese said.

In a statement, airport officials in Doha said the baby was “safe” and being cared for in Qatar.

They added that medical staff had expressed concern to them “about the health and welfare of a mother who had just given birth and requested she be located prior to departing.”

Australian authorities have said they are expecting a report on the incident from the Qatari Government later this week.