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Australian fury as women subjected to 'grossly disturbing' searches

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Australia is demanding answers after female passengers were subjected to invasive examinations in Qatar.

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Women on board a flight bound for Sydney, including 13 Australians, were forced to undergo internal examinations earlier this month after a premature baby was found in an airport bathroom.

Foreign Minister Marise Payne has raised the incident with the Qatari ambassador.

“This is a grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events,” Senator Payne told reporters in Canberra on Monday.

“It is not something that I have ever heard of occurring in my life, in any context.”

The federal government earlier said the examinations went far beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent.

“The Australian government is deeply concerned at the unacceptable treatment of some female passengers on a recent Qatar Airways flight at Doha Airport,” a government spokesperson told AAP.

“The government has formally registered our serious concerns about this incident with Qatari authorities. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is engaged on this matter through diplomatic channels.”

Hamad International Airport management said the baby was safe and being cared for by medical and social workers.

Medical professionals were concerned for the mother’s health after the infant was found and had requested she be located.

“Individuals who had access to a specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the query,” airport management told the ABC.

Federal opposition frontbencher Joel Fitzgibbon said the government should be robust in its response.

“If true, this effectively amounts to state-sanctioned sexual assault and we should all be very, very concerned,” he told the Seven Network.

Nationals MP Barnaby Joyce said it was outrageous and completely unacceptable the women were subjected to such humiliating examinations.

-AAP

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