The South African government seems adrift in its efforts to get a 23-year-old Kraaifontein woman home from Oman where she is being held without charge.
Chloe Collins went to Oman in April and was working in the Middle Eastern country’s hospitality industry until her detention on Thursday May 9.
According to Simone Carolissen, the family’s lawyer, Ms Collins’s brother, who joined her in Oman two weeks after her arrival, was suspected of involvement in crime, but he has since returned to South Africa. Oman officials have now detained Chloe and want to exchange her for her brother.
Ms Carolissen said Ms Collins’s family had grown suspicious when she had not made contact with them. Her parents had called the hotel where she was working and staying but she had not been there.
Ms Collins had then called her parents from a cellphone she had borrowed from an official at the centre where she was being detained. She had told them that she had been detained a week before their call to the hotel.
Asked what the brother is alleged to have done, Ms Carolissen said: “We don’t know. We hear rumours, but Chloe is being wrongfully detained, and we need to get her home.”
But Ms Collins’s parents could not afford to fight for her return home and Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) was not helping the family, said Ms Carolissen.
DIRCO spokesman Lunga Ngqengelele told Northern News the department was aware of Ms Collins’s detention. He claimed she been charged with a crime, and, “out of respect” for her, the department “is therefore not in a position to divulge the reason for her detention”.
He said it was “standard international practice that governments cannot intervene in the legal aspects of a case when its citizens are arrested and detained abroad.
“As is practice, the SA government is not in a position to ask for charges against an SA citizen to be dropped or for a citizen to be released from detention”.
But his claim that Ms Collins had been charged with a crime contradicted the family’s assertion Ms Collins had been held without charge, so Northern News called Ms Carolissen. The family were unaware of any such charge, she said.
So we went back to Mr Ngqengelele. “Was Ms Collins charged with a crime?”
He replied: “No she wasn’t charged.”
Ms Carolissen said Ms Collins’s plight had taken its toll on the family.
“This whole journey is just an emotional one for the family, as much as they are trying to fit the pieces together, they are trying to scrape money together to get their daughter home.”
The thought of sending Ms Collins’s brother back in exchange for her made it hard for the family to cope.
“They are not in a good space,” she said.
Ms Collins’s family have started a BackaBuddy campaign to raise money for her return.
Ms Carolissen also urged the public to sign the #FreeChloe online petition.