WARNING - DISTRESSING CONTENT: Up to 18 Australian women from 10 different aircraft have reportedly been subjected to internal examinations after the discovery of a baby at an airport in Doha.
It was initially discovered a group of female passengers, including 13 Australians, were given the examinations earlier this month after a premature baby was found in a bathroom at Hamad International Airport in Qatar.
But Foreign Minister Marise Payne told a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday morning that number is now 18 Australia women on 10 flights. Some were headed to Sydney but she didn’t say where the others were going.
She added Australian officials have been in touch with Qatar.
“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,” Ms Payne said.
One of the women told the ABC the experience was “terrifying”.
Another passenger told the ABC they weren’t told why they were being searched.
"She told me to pull my pants down and that I needed to examine my vagina … she did not explain anything to me,” she told the ABC.
Some of the passengers who were searched were bound for Sydney.
The searches were undertaken after an abandoned premature newborn was found in one of the terminal’s bathrooms.
It was initially reported the baby had died, but airport officials have since said the baby was safe and being cared for by medical and social workers.
Union describes incident as ‘sexual assault’
The NSW branch of the Transport Workers' Union will meet on Thursday to decide whether to boycott government-owned Qatar Airways.
The union may ban the servicing, cleaning or refuelling of Qatar planes at Sydney Airport.
"This is just downright sexual assault sanctioned by a government and we can't have that," union boss Richard Olsen told the Nine Network on Wednesday.
Ms Payne has demanded Qatar conduct an urgent investigation into the "grossly disturbing" incident and report back to her by the end of this week.
The federal government and opposition do not support a boycott of Qatar Airways.
Hamad International Airport management said earlier this week there were concerns for the mother's health after the infant was found.
"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.
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