A 21-year-old New York college student says she was detained in Dubai after an airport search.
Airport officials accused Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos of assault after she nudged one of them, she said.
Several Americans have been prohibited from leaving Dubai by drummed-up legal charges and scams.
A 21-year-old New York college student has been detained in Dubai after airport staffers accused her of “assaulting and insulting” them.
Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos was traveling from Istanbul with a friend when the incident unfolded in mid-July, Detained in Dubai, an organization that provides advice and legal assistance to foreigners in the United Arab Emirates, said in a press release.
The pair had a 10-hour layover in Dubai, which they chose over Paris. For Polcano De Los Santos, those 10 hours have now stretched into multiple months.
“We thought it would be a more modern and futuristic city, but we were completely wrong,” Polanco De Los Santos said in the press release.
As she went through the security screening, airport employees told her she needed to take off her doctor-mandated waist-training brace, the press release said. It added that despite her hesitations, she agreed and was ushered into a booth with female security officers, who were “rough” as they removed the compressor.
“I felt really violated,” Polanco De Los Santos said, adding that she was “uncomfortable and afraid.”
The press release said she tried to put the trainer back on by herself, a process that takes two people, before crying and asking for help. The security officers didn’t help and blocked her exit, at which point Polanco De Los Santos lightly nudged one of them so that she could call out to her friend for help, the press release said.
“I gently touched her arm to guide her out of the way then desperately started crying to my friend for help,” she said. Though the search came back clear, officials told her she’d be detained for “touching the female customs officer” and kept her for hours as they filed the complaint, the report said.
Just filing a criminal or civil case against someone in Dubai triggers a complicated legal process wherein the accused party is prohibited from leaving the country. Allegedly, local scammers are known for using such cases to extort foreigners for money, saying they’ll drop the case in exchange for thousands of dollars.
A Texas woman was detained in Dubai for months after being accused of yelling, which her accusers said violated the nation’s obscenity law. She was released after paying more than $1,000 to have the travel ban against her lifted.
Radha Stirling, the CEO of Detained in Dubai, said people could end up detained in the UAE for years on bogus or minor charges. In another case Stirling is working on, a US veteran has been detained in the country for years on what he says are false charges that he owes a debt to his children’s school.
For Polanco De Los Santos, a student at Lehman College, the past few months moving from one hotel to another and waiting for court hearings have been miserable.
“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,” Stirling said in the press release. “This is simply no way to treat visitors.”