New York college student imprisoned in Dubai for ‘touching’ female security guard finally freed

Dollita Okine October 04, 2023
Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos finally gets back home after being stuck in Dubai for months due to a travel ban for touching a guard Photo Credit: Detained In Dubai

Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos, a college student from New York City who was sentenced to one year in prison by the United Arab Emirates for allegedly “assaulting and insulting” an airport security guard during a flight connection in Dubai, has been released in a recent development.

The advocacy group Detained in Dubai reports that Dubai police informed the 21-year-old Lehman College student that she would be sent home to the U.S. despite being given a one-year prison sentence.

Los Santos was instructed to head to the airport after getting her fingerprints taken, where she would be met by police who would also return her passport. She finally gets back home after being stuck in Dubai for months due to a travel ban for touching a guard, Detained in Dubai said.

Radha Stirling, the CEO of Detained in Dubai, who defended Los Santos and brought her story to light, published a WhatsApp conversation in which Los Santos told her she was being permitted to return home. Stirling called it “a very welcome diplomatic move.”

She said in a statement, “Elizabeth boarded her flight home to New York late Tuesday night. The news that her sentence would be commuted was a welcome end to Elizabeth’s hellish 5 months in Dubai that left her humiliated, traumatized, and out of pocket with US$50,000.”

She proceeded to shed light on the frequency of the happenings in the popular city. Stirling said that recent high-profile instances involving Tierra Allen and Los Santos serve as good illustrations of what goes on in Dubai on a regular basis for the general public.

According to her, the city’s leadership invests billions in promoting a captivating city to foreign audiences, nevertheless, they ignore improving the venue’s safety for the very people they attract.

She said that tourists are frequently the subject of spiteful, false, and unsupported charges that may land them in prison. They are also prone to extortion techniques such as those used by airport personnel, rental car agents, taxi drivers, and others.

Los Santos was given a year in prison and has already spent $50,000. It’s a one-way ticket for many tourists, said Stirling.

“We are of course thankful that Elizabeth is on her way home but is that really a happy ending? She should have been home in May. Instead, she has been left with the scars of an incomprehensibly traumatic experience for a young student; she has lost US$50,000 that she will never be compensated for. Furthermore, she’s been convicted on the basis of mere allegations, sentenced to a year’s prison, fined, and deported. That in itself is a disgrace,” Stirling expressed.

She pushed for reform in the system of workers taking compensation since it creates difficulties like these. This is because, according to Stirling, accusers’ vindictiveness is usually motivated by the possibility of receiving payment if the case is dropped.

In Los Santos’s case, a judge had ordered her to pay a fine of roughly $2,700, which she did, and that could have been the end of it, but the customs officials then appealed the ruling and told her they wanted to see her in jail because they were displeased with the judge’s decision.

“The government of Dubai should forbid workers from accepting compensatory payments, as it only encourages workers to make false allegations. Dubai’s justice system is routinely misused to extort victims and it’s about time the US State Department updates its travel warnings to reflect this common practice,” she stated.

Last Edited by:Mildred Europa Taylor Updated: October 4, 2023


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