Hamad International Airport at Doha has revealed the baby at the centre of an international incident in which 13 Australian women were taken from a plane and invasively searched is alive but unidentified.
The revelation came as Foreign Minister Marise Payne said she was waiting for a report from Qatari authorities about this “grossly, grossly disturbing, offensive, concerning set of events”.
“It is not something that I have ever heard of occurring in my life, in any context. We have made our views very clear to Qatari authorities on this matter,” Payne told a news conference. She said she hopes the report would come this week.
In the incident, initially reported by the Seven Network, the women were taken off a plane bound for Australia and subjected to invasive searches after a baby was found in an airport bathroom.
The Hamad statement said on October 2, a newborn infant was found abandoned at the airport.
“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 HIA.
"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.”
The statement said “the newborn infant remains unidentified but is safe under the professional care of medical and social workers.”
Payne said Australia had taken up the incident with the ambassador in Australia as well as with the authorities in Doha.
The matter has also gone to the Australian Federal Police, although it is not clear what its role would be.
Payne said “we will determine next steps” after the information was received from Qatar authorities. But it is not obvious what Australia can do in practical terms beyond making the strong protest.
The women, who as returning travellers had to undergo quarantine, have been offered support.
The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Sydney lawyer Wolfgang Babeck, who was also a passenger on QR908 from Doha to Sydney, saying that when the women returned to the plane “obviously some were upset, some were angry … one was also crying”. He said one was travelling with two children, others were with partners or alone.
Authors: Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra