In July, 21-year-old Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos was traveling back to New York with a friend from their vacation in Istanbul. They had decided on a layover in Dubai versus Paris. That decision would prove to have dire consequences.
“We thought it would be a more modern and futuristic city but we were completely wrong,” stated a press release.
Now Polanco De Los Santos faces accusations of “assaulting and insulting” Dubai airport staff. While going through security, the Lehman College student endured an excruciating and degrading search.
The business major “was instructed to take off a waist trainer after undergoing surgery,” according to News Nation Now.
Per the press release, “Elizabeth is mandated by surgeons to wear a medical waist trainer suit (compressor) that goes around her waist, stomach and upper chest…It’s impossible for Elizabeth to take off her compressor and put it back on herself. She dreaded the process.”
“‘I was feeling uncomfortable and afraid. I felt really violated,’ [said Elizabeth]…They were rough, hurting her swollen wounds as they removed the compressor. Elizabeth begged for help to put her compressor back on but they wouldn’t,” the release continued.
De Los Santos alleges “the women gave her ‘nasty stares’ and were laughing in Arabic at her swollen wounds. She needed help getting her waist trainer back off and tapped a security woman for help, but she was detained for allegedly ‘touching the female customs officer’ during the search.”
When the officer filed a complaint against De Los Santos, she was held at a room in the airport for hours. She was then instructed to sign a form, which was written in Arabic, and permitted to leave the airport. But then “hours later she received a travel ban and was ordered to pay a 10,000 AED fine, which equates to $2,722 USD.”
Even though she paid the exorbitant fine, which is usually sufficient as punishment, “customs officials appealed her sentence.” In Dubai, this is legal because the courts automatically allow any appeal, whether the claims are merited or not.
A convoluted legal proceeding is triggered in Dubai when either a criminal or civil case is filed, and the accused is banned from departing.
She has since spent months waging a legal battle in UAE on top of having to spend approximately £41,000 for various expenses and costs of the court.
Detained in Dubai is a charity representing those who are fighting legal challenges in the UAE. The organization’s founder Radha Stirling has indicated that De Los Santos isn’t the only American citizen who’s fallen prey to their “backwards justice system.”
“She’s now been told she has a one-year prison sentence but that if all ‘goes well’, she will only be detained until she can book a flight out of the UAE,” says Stirling.
“Any country where a mere unevidenced allegation can result in lengthy imprisonment is an unacceptable choice for tourists and Dubai needs to work hard to stop this kind of legal abuse,” Stirling added.
Stirling also issued a warning to fellow travelers, stating, “American citizens need to be aware that Dubai is a dangerous place to visit.”
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