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  • Writer's pictureDue Process International

UAE Travel Warning: New York student sentenced to 1 year in prison after transiting through Dubai

tryptich collage of Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos and family members
21 year old New York college student sentenced to 1 year in prison.

Elizabeth Polanco De Los Santos was sentenced to ONE YEAR in prison after being falsely accused of “assaulting and insulting” Dubai airport staff. Elizabeth faced degrading, painful and humiliating searches when she transited through the international hub from Istanbul to New York but the nightmare has not ended.

“Elizabeth’s experience transiting through Dubai International Airport has left our organisation, Detained in Dubai, calling for increased travel warnings to US citizens”, said founder Radha Stirling in a statement.

“Elizabeth only intended to transit through Dubai for six hours but she’s been there for months on end and has lost $50,000 in expenses and lawyers costs. 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.

“On top of being humiliated and traumatised by airport staff, Elizabeth has suffered months of being forced to stay in an expensive country, pay expensive lawyers and miss out on her university studies. Is this the kind of transport hub that people would want to choose? She’s not the only US citizen who has fallen foul of the country’s backwards justice system. Social media influencer Tierra Allen (Sassy Trucker) was stuck in the country for months after falling victim to a rental car extortion scheme while Peter Clark was held for residual hashish found in his bloodstream that he’d legally smoked in Las Vegas long before his visit.

“One thing these Americans have in common is that they regret the day they ever decided to visit Dubai and they all continue to intensely warn other citizens to avoid the region. It’s not about guilt or innocence. A mere allegation is sufficient to secure a conviction whether there is evidence of wrongdoing or not. Often, allegations are used by complainants to secure large settlement payments to close the case. It was even suggested that Elizabeth offer money to her accusers for them to close the case but they have been extremely vindictive.

“Elizabeth is extremely worried that she will be detained in the notorious Al Awir prison and won’t (as promised) be allowed to leave the country. Even if she is allowed to be deported tomorrow, she will remain in prison until then, not knowing whether there will be further delays or whether in fact, she will end up forced to serve the whole sentence. This is an extreme situation for a 21 year old to go through.

“The US Embassy and Elizabeth’s congressional representative, Ritchie Torres have been kept up to date regarding case developments, but further diplomatic efforts must be made on an urgent basis in order to secure her freedom. It is completely unnecessary to send this poor girl to prison and we have seen how easily promises of release can be withdrawn.

“American citizens need to be aware that Dubai is a dangerous place to visit. 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.”

Detained in Dubai has made urgent representations on behalf of Elizabeth and is advocating for her immediate release and that safeguards are put in place to prevent the lengthy and unfair detention of visitors to the country. The US State Department should also revise their travel warnings to include the risk of false allegations and extortion scams.


Radha Stirling CEO at Due Process International

+44 7 309 114 195


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