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Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos detained Dubai 21 airport security Lehman College

Source: Courtesy of Detained in Dubai

Lehman College student Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos is trapped in Dubai after an airport security search resulted in her being criminally detained. 

The 21-year-old has been prohibited from leaving Dubai since mid-July when the incident occurred, and she was held for “touching [a] female customs officer,” according to Detained in Dubai.

Airport security employees reportedly asked the college student and a retail store operations manager to remove her waist trainer, which she was required to wear based on doctor’s orders. The 21-year-old hesitantly followed the request and agreed to a booth search, where security officers were allegedly “rough” while removing her compression garment.

In the press release Detained in Dubai — a criminal justice organization — published Sept. 18, Polanco De Los Santos said she felt “really violated,” “really embarrassed,” and “taken advantage of” during the search. 

While diligently trying to put her waist trainer back on by herself, the 21-year-old reportedly got tearful and wanted her friend to come in and help her. 

Polanco De Los Santos claimed that she lightly ushered one of the female security guards out of the way so she could push back a curtain and call out to her friend. However, the security guard accused the college student of “assaulting and insulting” her.

“I gently touched her arm to guide her out of the way, then desperately started crying to my friend for help,” Polanco De Los Santos told Detained in Dubai.

The 21-year-old ended up in the United Arab Emirates after a trip to Istanbul with her friend. The duo chose Dubai over Paris for a layover on their journey back from Istanbul to New York City. The two only planned to be in Dubai for 10 hours. 

“We thought it would be a more modern and futuristic city, but we were completely wrong,” Polanco De Los Santos explained.

The college student bounced from hotel to hotel during her detainment thus far, all on her own dime. In late August, judges ordered that she pay an AED 10,000 fine, according to the press release on her case.

Polanco De Los Santos’ next hearing is scheduled for Oct. 23, but Detained in Dubai CEO Radha Stirling said there’s a possibility the Lehman College student’s detainment will be extended.

Unable to receive the medical treatment she needs in the U.S., the 21-year-old still faces an unknown amount of time away, more fines and years of imprisonment.

“Even if Elizabeth wins her case, six months or more of being forced to stay in the country at her own cost while under the very real threat of imprisonment is an unacceptable consequence of transiting through Dubai,” said Stirling. “She is under the most incredible stress, which is impacting her physical and mental health, disrupting her entire life and scarring her long term. This is simply no way to treat visitors. It’s outrageous”.”

Details connected to Polanco De Los Santos’ story noted that there’s a pattern of foreigners being withheld in Dubai due to the city’s rigid legal system and laws. Read more below.

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