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Qatar Airways faces protest over examination of Aussie women

A Qatar Airways Airbus A380 comes in to land on August 19, 2018 in Sydney, Australia. (PHOTO /BLOOMBERG)

Qatar Airways faces an effective grounding of its planes in Sydney as workers consider striking over the treatment earlier this month of some female Australian passengers in Doha.

The union representing Sydney airport workers is considering refusing to service, clean or refuel Qatar Airways jets. Members “are angry at the brutal attack on the human rights” of the women, the Transport Workers’ Union in the Australian state of New South Wales said in a statement Tuesday.

The escalating dispute follows medical examinations of some women who were departing Qatar on Oct 2 bound for Sydney. According to Australian media reports, staff at Hamad International Airport in Doha discovered a premature baby abandoned in a toilet at the airport. Women on the plane, including 13 Australians, were then taken off the flight and subjected to invasive, naked inspections in an ambulance without their consent.

According to Australian media reports, staff at Hamad International Airport in Doha discovered a premature baby abandoned in a toilet at the airport. Women on the plane, including 13 Australians, were then taken off the flight and subjected to invasive, naked inspections in an ambulance without their consent

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In Qatar, it is illegal for women to have sex or become pregnant outside of marriage.

Representatives from Qatar Airways didn’t immediately respond to messages seeking comment.

A statement released by Hamad International Airport said that after the new born was found on Oct. 2, the infant “was immediately provided with medical attention and care.”

“Medical professionals expressed concern to officials about the health and welfare of a mother who had just given birth and requested she be located prior to departing” the airport, according to the statement. “Individuals who had access to the specific area of the airport where the new born infant was found were asked to assist in the query.”

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Australia’s foreign minister, Marise Payne, on Monday described the incident as “grossly disturbing” and “offensive,” and said the government had raised the issue with Qatari authorities.

“Qatar should fix this problem they have created or they will face the angry uproar from union members in NSW,” Richard Olsen, NSW State Secretary of the Transport Workers’ Union, said in the statement.

Payne said she’s expecting a report on the incident from Qatari authorities. “Once I’ve seen that, we will determine next steps,” she told reporters Monday.

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