Speaking at a session of the Australian Senate on Wednesday morning, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne said 18 Australians were among those evacuated from 10 flights and forced to undergo “extremely inappropriate” inspections on October 2.
It was not immediately clear how many women were searched.
Among the aircraft involved was Sydney Flight 908, Sydney Airlines, which landed for passenger transport in Doha, Qatar, that day.
The foreign minister said Australia was not the only country whose population was affected, but did not specify which other countries were involved.
Speaking at the same meeting, Australian Labor senator Penny Wong described what these women were doing as “aggressive procedures.”
Although the exact details of the incident have not been released, CNN’s seven allied news outlets have previously reported that the woman was “forced to check in an ambulance on a van.”
In a statement issued Wednesday, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison called the incident “horrific” and “unacceptable.” “As the father of a daughter, I can only shake the idea that any woman, Australian or otherwise, will be rejected,” she said.
“It’s important that wherever tourists travel, they can do it for free from that kind of event.”
The Qatari government said in a statement Wednesday that the search was based on the discovery of a newborn baby found in a plastic bag and dumped in a trash can at Hamad International Airport.
“The girl was rescued by what appeared to be a shocking and horrific attempt to kill her,” the statement said.
Hamad International Airport, where the incident took place, earlier confirmed the baby’s discovery and said medical experts were concerned about the “health and well-being of the new mother and asked her to stay before departure (airport).”
The Qatari government statement also defended the search for the “mother” who made the urgent decision, but said the aim was to “prevent the perpetrators of the heinous crime from escaping”.
The statement added: “Qatar is deeply saddened by the acts of independence or the violation of the privacy of tourists as a result of these acts.”
Payne said the Australian government has demanded a full report from Qatar.
Wolfgang Babeck, a passenger on QR 908, told CNN that there was “a very tense atmosphere” on the plane when the women returned from tarmac airport.
“One of the women was crying,” he said. “To others they are shocked. No one can believe what happened. It is a very personal and sensitive issue. You do not want to share this story with others.”
He said the women got off the plane “faithfully, based on the crew’s advice.”
The Australian government says it has sent the message to the Australian Federal Police, who told CNN they were in contact with the State Department.