American Student’s Layover in Dubai Turns into 4-Month Captivity Over Misunderstanding


An American student intending to layover for 10 hours during her travel in Dubai International Airport lived a waking nightmare as that layover volatilized into an unexpectedly prolonged four-month captivity following a misunderstanding that subsequently placed her on the UAE’s no-fly list.

Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos, a 21-year-old student, embarked on a journey through Dubai International Airport when an unexpected confrontation with the customs officials rapidly derailed her plans. This ordeal suddenly extended her layover into months, entangling her in the local legal system and grounding her ability to fly home to her New York abode. Advocates are now concerned that she may face the bleak possibility of incarceration.

Detained in Dubai – a firm which champions the rights of foreigners who endure detention in the UAE – revealed through their latest press release how De Los Santos and her travel associate elected to linger in the opulence of the Emirate travel junction during their long layover on their way home from a holiday in Turkey. She expressed disappointment in her choice, saying they had imagined Dubai as a “more modern and futuristic city.”

De Los Santos’ ordeal began on July 14 when she was detained for airport screening after the underwiring of a surgical “waist trainer” corset she was wearing set off alarms. Subsequent to this, she was escorted to a private room where she was asked to remove the surgical corset for reasons of additional screening. De Los Santos voiced her protest, asserting that she wore the device under medical advice due to a recent surgery she underwent, an experience she referred to as making her feel unduly “violated.”

During the inspection process, De Los Santos was accused of causing misconduct through her alleged “assaulting and insulting” of the Dubai airport staff, a claim she robustly denies, saying she simply “gently touched her arm to guide her out of the way”.

This incident resulted in the banishment from boarding her July 15 flight while still being held in the UAE awaiting a final judgment. Despite an August 24 court ruling that a fine of AED10,000 be imposed on De Los Santos, customs officials contested the decision.

The organization which advocates for citizen rights, Detained in Dubai, emphasized that the UAE’s exhaustive automatized appeal procedure could potentially continue to detain the American student indefinitely, even if she prevails causing her to bear the cost of lodging during her extended stay.

The pressure from the situation continues to rise for De Los Santos as her studies at Lehman College in New York have already resumed in her absence, and the lease on her apartment expired in the prior month of September. She’s hoping for her ordeal to cease so that she can return to her normal life soon.


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