Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos.Courtesy of Detained in Dubai

New York College Student Being Held In Dubai For ‘Touching’ Female Security Guard

A college student from New York is being held in Dubai after being accused of assaulting an airport security guard, Newsweek reports.

Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos, a business arts student at Lehman College, and a friend were returning to New York from Turkey with a 10-hour layover in the Middle Eastern city on July 14. While there, she said she suffered a “painful and degrading search” from security.

Polanco De Los Santos was asked to remove a medically needed compressor she’d received after a surgery, which goes around her upper chest and waist. She obeyed but was extremely afraid and uncomfortable throughout the search, according to Detained in Dubai.

“She is under the most incredible stress which is impacting her physical and mental health, disrupting her entire life and scarring her long term,” the organization’s CEO, Radha Stirling, said.

“This is simply no way to treat visitors. It’s outrageous.”

After the search, Polanco De Los Santos claims, she gently touched a female security guard to help guide her back to meet her friend. Shortly afterward, she was told she was being detained for “touching the female customs officer” during the search, which Polanco De Los Santos says did not happen.

“I gently touched her arm to guide her out of the way, then desperately started crying to my friend for help,” she said, according to Africa Business Insider. She was held in the room for several hours while the guard filed a complaint against her.

She has been there since, with a travel ban issued against her.

Polanco De Los Santos is yet another young woman of color being held in Dubai for questionable reasons. Tierra Allen, a popular TikTok trucking influencer, was released in August 2023 after being held for “screaming” in public.

Judges have ordered Polanco De Los Santos to pay a fine of more than $2,700, but customs officials appealed her sentence. The victim’s mother told Detained in Dubai how stressful her daughter’s situation is for her.

“As a family, we are really struggling, and my daughter needs to be home to continue seeing her doctor,” said her mother. “I’ve been in tears, I don’t understand why she could be held in the country this long. She really regrets going to Dubai and is desperate to come home.”

Stirling has called on New York Congressman Ritchie Torres and Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand in the hopes that they can help.