Australian women say Qatar has not contacted them since invasive Doha airport examinations | Australia news

Women who were removed from a Qatar Airways flight and subject to an intimate medical examination, sparking international outrage last month, have not received any individual apologies or been directly contacted by the airline.

Passengers on the flight, which departed Doha for Sydney on 2 October, have told Guardian Australia there has been no direct contact with them from either Qatar Airways of the Qatari government in the six weeks since the incident took place.

This is despite some passengers making a formal complaint to Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) and the Australian federal police (AFP) within 24 hours of arrival.

They also have not been offered any compensation for the traumatic event.

The women say they have all been contacted by the AFP to give interviews this month. The AFP contacted the passengers while they were in quarantine and has said it is committed to pursuing the investigation into their treatment.

The group of passengers, who have asked to remain anonymous, said they would be seeking individual written apologies and were still considering the possibility of legal action.

They are also seeking an undertaking from Qatari authorities that the safety of travellers transiting through Doha airport be put ahead of other concerns in the future.

Passengers have told Guardian Australia that contact from the Morrison government has also been minimal.

One passenger, who asked not to be named, said she was not contacted by DFAT until after the foreign minister, Marise Payne, said at a press conference on 26 October that the women had been offered “appropriate support”.

She missed the call and received a voice message which advised she could call a 1300 number if she required support.

She said she did receive calls from a government agency during her two weeks in hotel quarantine immediately following the flight, but it was not clear whether that call was in response to the complaint made about treatment in Qatar or a general welfare check made to all returning travellers in quarantine.

But she said she felt the AFP officer that spoke to her was “genuinely committed” to supporting the welfare of her and other passengers.

“They seem to be taking it very seriously,” she said.

Qatari authorities have said that staff at Doha international airport violated standard procedure by requiring 18 women, including 13 Australian citizens, to disembark the plane and follow security staff to a private area of the airport, where they were bundled into ambulances and subject to intimate medical examinations to see if they had recently given birth.

Authorities have since said they were searching for the mother of a newborn baby found in a trash can at the airport.

They said that a preliminary investigation found that the decision to examine a number of female passengers was an “illegal action” and those responsible would be prosecuted.

Passengers from 10 other flights, which have yet to be publicly identified, were also examined.

The prime minister of Qatar, Sheikh Khalid bin Khalifa bin Abdulaziz Al Thani, has offered his “sincerest apology for what some female travellers went through as a result of the measures”.

He also told Payne, in a phone call on 30 October, of Qatar’s “commitment to the safety and security of all passengers travelling through Hamad International airport”.

Payne has said Australia was satisfied with the initial steps taken by Qatar and said she was confident those responsible would be held to account in a fair, just and proportionate matter, and said Australia would continue to monitor the case.

But the Australians say they expect individual apologies, with one woman saying she was “astonished” they had not yet been contacted.

“We were booked with the airline, they have all our contact details,” she said.

Qatar Airways did not respond to a request for comment. DFAT was approached by the Guardian but also did not respond at the time of publication.


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