An Australian woman on a Qatar Airways flight to Sydney said she thought the plane was being hijacked when female passengers were rounded up and sent for “disruptive” physical exams.
The discovery of the little girl, who is currently under medical care in Doha, sparked a dramatic search at the airport for the mother, who was not found.
Australian Ffranses Ingram, 73, said the plane bound for Sydney was delayed on the tarmac for hours before anyone knew what was going on.
“They kept telling us different stories,” Ms. Ingram told ABC.
“And then we might have waited an hour and then the plane said, ‘We’re taking off now.’ And all it did was take a taxi to another part of the airport.
“Then it was said: ‘Ladies and gentlemen, we have government security issues.’
“And I was like, ‘Oh no, Sydney isn’t taking us back. You have decided to close the airport. ‘
“We waited again and then we were told that all female passengers had to leave with our passport.
“Then I got scared because I thought, ‘Oh, this is a kidnapping where the women are released and the men are held hostage’.”
Ms. Ingram, who was returning to Australia after receiving medical treatment in Germany, said she and 17 other women were taken from the plane to the terminal by a flight attendant who refused to reveal what was going on.
“I was put in an elevator and when I appeared on the tarmac I was surrounded by police. And again I said to her, “I’m very scared.” My heart went from 19 to a dozen and she still wouldn’t tell me.
“And then I saw the other women and I went over to them and one of them said they had been examined and a baby had been found in the airport and they were trying to find the mother.”
Ms. Ingram said when it was her turn to get on the waiting ambulance, she was turned away. “So if that’s why they were looking for a birth, it was obviously not me,” she said.
She said she was getting increasingly angry about what her fellow travelers had experienced and was angry with Qatar Airways.
“I find that I am more outraged every day and more afraid and worried about the girls on the plane than I was then because I did not know how far the investigation was on some of them.” Ms. Ingram said.
“It really is absolutely horrific and horrible and disgusting.
“I thought that as a passenger in Qatar I would have been protected by the airline and would have been protected as an international traveler. But we weren’t. ”
It comes as new material emerges from paramedics who have recovered the abandoned newborn that was reportedly tucked in a bag and buried under trash in a bathroom basket.
Soon after, female passengers were taken to an ambulance at the airport and asked to remove their underwear for an invasive exam to determine who had recently given birth.
“This tremendous and life-threatening violation of the law triggered an immediate search for the parents, including on flights near where the newborn was found,” the Qatar government said in a statement yesterday.
“While the aim of the urgently decided search was to prevent the escape of the perpetrators of the horrific crime, the State of Qatar deplores any distress or violation of a traveler’s personal freedoms caused by this action.”
The results of an investigation into the matter are expected to be presented to the Australian government, which has sparked international outrage over the incident.
Foreign Secretary Marise Payne said Australia took the matter “extremely seriously” and took it up with the Qatari authorities here and in Doha.
“I understand that those affected by this event are still investigating, and we also know that the matter has been reported to the Australian Federal Police,” she said.
“This is a grossly, grossly disturbing, insulting series of events. It is nothing that I have ever heard of in my life and we have made our views very clear to the Qatari authorities on the matter. ”
The Transport Workers’ Union was considering boycott work on Qatar Airways in light of the Doha incident.
Consideration has been given to banning the maintenance, cleaning or refueling of Qatar Airways planes flying into Sydney Airport. The vote is due to take place today.
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