Women on 10 different aircraft at Hamad International Airport were subjected to invasive medical examinations, Australia’s Foreign Affairs Minister has revealed.
Further information has emerged from an incident that was described by Senator Marise Payne as “offensive” and “grossly inappropriate”, in which multiple Australian women were forced to remove their clothing and undergo vaginal examinations in an ambulance.
This came after the discovery of a newborn baby abandoned in a terminal at Hamad International Airport.
Senator Payne confirmed at a Senate estimates hearing on Wednesday that 18 Australian women were on the 10 flights, but officials said it was not clear how many were searched, as reported by ABC News.
It was previously reported that at least 13 women were forced to undergo examinations during the incident, which occurred on 2 October but was not publicly reported until Sunday.
According to Guardian Australia, Senator Payne said the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) did not become aware of the number of other flights affected until Tuesday.
“The issues which have been discussed in relation to this matter are very concerning and very distressing and the Australian government has been quite clear about that,” Payne said.
“There is a series of meetings occurring in Qatar as late as yesterday. Australia is not the only country affected.”
Those meetings reportedly involved Hamad International Airport and its owner Qatar Airways, and the government of Qatar, Payne said.
Off the back of the incident, the Transport Workers’ Union (TWU) is reportedly considering industrial action against Qatar Airways over what 9News reported was an alleged abuse of human rights.
In response to the offences against the women, the TWU is considering banning all servicing, cleaning, or refuelling of Qatar Airways planes that fly into Sydney Airport.
According to 9News, the union said it had been forced to take on the airline in the past for ignoring the international labour rights of its workforce, and that it was willing to act again on this issue.
The potential action will reportedly be put to a vote on Thursday.
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