Thirteen Australians were allegedly among a group of women removed from a Qatar Airways flight and strip-searched on Oct. 2, the Australian government says. The flight, en route from Doha to Sydney, was delayed four hours after an abandoned newborn was found inside the airport. Australian authorities say all the women were made to disembark the plane, strip-searched in an ambulance on the tarmac, and subjected to a medical exam, the Guardian reports. The Australian government has "formally registered serious concerns" with the Qatari government, and is taking diplomatic steps, 7 News reports.
The premature infant is currently "safe under the professional care of medical and social workers," the airport says in a statement, though its mother was never located. A male passenger who was on the flight says that after all the women returned, the plane was allowed to take off. "At least one of them was crying, they were discussing what had happened and saying that it was unacceptable and disgusting," he says. He says that after they disrobed from the waist down, a "doctor would try to feel in the uterus and stomach area or lower abdomen to see whether they may have given birth recently." At least one of the women is considering legal action, she tells the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. The women say they were not told why they were being searched. (Read more Qatar Airways stories.)