Two British women are ‘receiving support’ after they were subjected to compulsory invasive medical examinations while flying through Qatar in October.
UK authorities confirmed on Thursday the two women were among those on 10 flights out of Doha that were forced to have intimate examinations on October 2.
Authorities in the ultra-conservative Gulf state carried out the examinations when searching for the mother of a newborn baby found abandoned in a Hamad International Airport bathroom.
British diplomats have formally complained to Qatari authorities and Qatar Airways over the incident, and sought assurances that the incident would not be repeated.
British diplomats have formally complained to Qatari authorities and Qatar Airways over the treatment of two British woman who were subjected to invasive medical examinations after a baby was found abandoned in an airport bathroom in Doha
‘We are providing ongoing support to two British women following an incident in Doha,’ a spokesperson for the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office said in a statement.
‘We have formally expressed our concern with the Qatari authorities and Qatar Airways and are seeking assurances an unacceptable incident like this cannot happen again.’
The woman caught up in the incident have described how they were asked to disembark their flights at the airport without any explanation.
There, they claim they were led through the airport’s underground areas before being told to get into waiting ambulances.
Once inside they were told to remove their underwear so a female medical professional could undertake the forced medical examination to see if they had recently given birth.
Qatar said Wednesday it ‘regrets any distress’ over the incident, which occurred in early October but only came to light this week after affected Australian passengers spoke out.
New Zealand also revealed one of its citizens was among the women subjected to invasive pelvic examinations.
‘We were extremely concerned to learn… that a New Zealand national was involved in the appalling incident involving female passengers on several Qatar Airways flights,’ the foreign affairs ministry said in a statement late Thursday.
‘This action was completely unacceptable. We are making our views known to Qatari authorities and are seeking a full report on what occurred.’
Australia has since said 13 of its citizens had to endure the ‘appalling’ examinations, and a French woman was also among those affected.
This image made from the Oct. 2, 2020, surveillance camera footage obtained by the website Doha News shows officials caring for the abandoned baby at Hamad International Airport in Doha, Qatar
A spokeswoman from Australia’s office of the foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne, said: ‘The advice that has been provided indicates that the treatment of the women concerned was offensive, grossly inappropriate, and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent.’
Australian Kim Mills, one of those told to disembark the flight, has spoken about her experience.
‘They told me to step forward, to go into the ambulance, and as I stepped forward another officer came round and stood in front of me and said: ‘No, no, you go, you go’,’ Mills told Guardian Australia.
‘And as I was standing there with this officer telling me to go, a young lass came out of the ambulance and she was crying and distraught.
‘I just turned around and started walking with her trying to comfort her. I said, ‘What’s wrong, what’s going on?’ And she told me that they’d found a baby in the bathroom at the airport and they were examining all the women.’
Mills said she was the ‘luckiest on the whole flight’ because of her grey hair, saying the authorities likely didn’t expect her to have been the mother of the child because of her age.
A spokeswoman from Australia’s office of the foreign affairs minister, Marise Payne (pictured), called the treatment of the women on the flight ‘offensive, grossly inappropriate, and beyond circumstances in which the women could give free and informed consent’
In its first account of events, Qatar said the baby girl was wrapped in plastic and left to die in a bathroom rubbish bin, prompting what sources said was a lockdown of the airport.
Women were then led from aircraft to ambulances on the tarmac where they were subject to cervical examinations to see if they had recently given birth.
Qatar has launched an investigation into the incident, which involved women on 10 flights, and sources say those involved could face criminal prosecution.
It is understood that the woman who gave birth to the baby has not been identified, and that the child is alive in the care of Qatari authorities.