‘I Felt Really Violated’: New York College Student Sentenced to 1 Year After Allegedly Touching Security Guard During ‘Humiliating’ Dubai Airport Search, Reportedly Freed

A 21-year-old college student who was reportedly detained in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, since July 14 after she was strip-searched while going through security at the Dubai International Airport has been released.

Advocacy group Detained in Dubai reports the saga began for Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos when she was returning to New York from a trip to Istanbul, Turkey, with a friend. De Los Santos was detained following a painful search at the Dubai airport as she began what was supposed to be a 10-hour layover.

Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos Dubai
Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos. (Photo: @RobertAkumbobe / X)

De Los Santos had been recovering from surgery and wore a medical waist trainer compressor around her waist, stomach and upper chest. After being taken to a separate area by female staff dressed in local attire, she was forced to remove the medical compressor.

Trending Today:

After the search was completed, De Los Santos said she needed help putting the medical compressor back on, but the women laughed at her as she struggled.

“I was feeling uncomfortable and afraid,” said De Los Santos to the group. “I felt really violated.”

As the half-naked college student struggled to put the compressor back on while begging for help, she says the women refused to assist her. She says she peeked out from behind the curtain to have her friend help and, while doing so, lightly touched one of the women’s arms who was blocking the view.

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

A male officer allowed the friend behind the curtain to help her, but De Los Santos was detained for “touching the female customs officer” and accused of “assaulting and insulting” the female airport staffers.

Radha Stirling, the CEO of Detained in Dubai, an organization that helps people detained in the Middle East, said De Los Santos’ physical and mental health have been impacted by the incident and subsequent detainment.

“Elizabeth was falsely accused of assaulting and insulting a customs official when she was stripped and humiliated upon entering the desert city during a transit stop,” Stirling said.

Stirling added that the 21-year-old was issued a fine by the court on Aug. 24 for AED 10,000 ($2,722), but she is not allowed to leave the country due to a travel ban issued against her. Customs officials appealed the ruling, seeking to have her sentenced to one year in jail. Her sentence has since been commuted, and she returned to New York late Tuesday night, Stirling said.

“The 21 year old is ecstatic to be returning to the US after five months of anguish,” Stirling said.

De La Santos had to pay for hotels in the expensive city as she was banned from leaving the country. Her passport was returned before she boarded the flight home.

The case resembles that of another woman detained in Dubai. Tierra Young Allen is a 29-year-old truck driver who was held following an accident while driving a rental car. After she tried to pick up her personal belongings from the rental company, she was told that she would first need to pay an undisclosed fee. After having an emotional outburst in response, she was arrested and also issued a travel ban for “slandering and defaming an employee.”

Stirling helped Allen get released, but not before Allen’s mother paid $1,360 to get her passport back, and the Houston native spent several months detained in Dubai.

Read the original story here.

Back to top