Australia blocks Qatar Airways flights over strip-search incident

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Australia has rejected a request by Qatar Airways to increase its flights to major Australian cities, citing the strip-search of five Australian women at Doha airport last year as one of the factors behind the decision. The transport minister, Catherine King, said on Thursday that the “invasive” gynaecological examinations carried out by Qatar authorities were “not anything we would expect anyone, and certainly not Australians travelling on an international airline, to experience”.

The incident occurred in October 2020, when a newborn baby was found abandoned in a bin at Hamad International Airport. Women on 10 flights, including five Australians on a Qatar Airways flight to Sydney, were taken off the planes and forced to undergo medical checks in ambulances on the tarmac. The women said they were not told what was happening and were not given a choice to consent.

The Qatar government later apologised for the incident and said it was investigating the matter. The five Australian women are suing Qatar Airways and the Qatar Civil Aviation Authority over the incident, claiming they suffered physical and psychological harm.

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