CNN affiliate Seven News reported that women at the airport, including 13 Australians, were “allegedly removed from flights, detained and forced to undergo an inspection in an ambulance on the tarmac.”
“Reports indicate that the treatment of the women concerned was offensive, grossly inappropriate, and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent,” an Australian government spokesperson told CNN.
The flight, Sydney-bound Qatar Airways Flight QR 908, landed for a transit stop in Doha, Qatar, on October 2, CNN affiliate Nine News reported.
Hamad International Airport confirmed an abandoned newborn baby was found at the airport on October 2, adding that medical professionals were concerned “about the health and welfare of a mother who had just given birth and requested she be located prior to departing (the airport).”
“Individuals who had access to the specific area of the airport where the newborn infant was found were asked to assist in the query,” the airport said in a statement to CNN.
Airport authorities are still searching for the mother, but the newborn is “safe under the professional care of medical and social workers.”
Wolfgang Babeck, a passenger on the plane, told CNN that there was “a very tense atmosphere” on the flight when the women returned from the tarmac.
“One lady was crying,” he said. “The others they were shell-shocked, nobody could believe what had happened. It was such a private and delicate issue. You don’t want to share that with people.”
He said the women had left the plane “in good faith, relying on the instructions of the crew.”
Speaking on Monday, Australian Foreign Minister Marisa Payne said it was “not something I have ever heard of occurring in my life in any context.”
“This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events… We have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities on this matter,” she said at a press conference in Canberra.
Payne added that a report has been submitted to Australian Federal Police (AFP)
In a response to CNN, the AFP said that it was aware of the matter and was liaising with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
“It would not be appropriate to comment any further,” spokesperson for the AFP said.
CNN’s Angus Watson contributed to this report.