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Thirteen Australian women have been subjected to invasive physical searches without their consent after reports airport terminal staff in Doha discovered a premature baby abandoned in a bathroom.
In a Seven News report, independently confirmed by The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, it is alleged that women on board flight QR908 from Doha to Sydney on October 2 were detained, without explanation, following the discovery of the child.
Qatari authorities forced them to remove their underwear for a genital examination in an ambulance on the tarmac.
Women on the Qatar Airways flight to Sydney were subjected to invasive physical searches.
According to a statement from Hamad Airport, received by ABC Australia, the baby is safe and receiving care.
"At this time, the newborn infant remains unidentified, but is safe under the professional care of medical and social workers," the statement read.
The treatment of the women has prompted intervention from the Australian government, with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade indicating in a statement on Sunday it has formally registered "serious concerns" about the incident with Qatari authorities. Women from other countries were also detained and subjected to inspections.
"The Australian government is aware of concerning reports regarding the treatment of female passengers, including Australian citizens, at Doha (Hamad) airport in Qatar," a spokesman for DFAT said.
"We have formally registered our serious concerns regarding the incident with Qatari authorities and have been assured that detailed and transparent information on the event will be provided soon."
The incident is not under investigation by the Australian Federal Police. In a statement, the AFP said it was aware of media reports and was engaging with DFAT on the matter.
Director of Amnesty International Australia Samantha Klintworth told Seven News that the incident was "distressing and disturbing and it is a gross violation of these women’s human rights".
"There needs to be a thorough and independent investigation and all of those involved need to be held to account," she said.
The 13 women completed 14 days of hotel quarantine in Sydney, and have since returned to their homes.
A spokeswoman for NSW Police, which runs the hotel quarantine operation, said: "NSW Police is aware of an incident in Doha in early October, involving a number of women returning to Australia. Those women completed mandatory quarantine in NSW, during which time they were provided with medical and psychological support by NSW Health."
Comment has been sought from Qatar Airways.
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