Nigerian stowaways found on ship’s rudder in Canary Islands

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) — Three stowaways have been found on the helm of a ship in the Canary Islands after an 11-day ocean voyage from Nigeria, Spain’s maritime rescue service said.

The men found on the oil tanker Alithini II in the port of Las Palmas on Monday afternoon appeared to show symptoms of dehydration and hypothermia and were taken to hospitals on the island for medical attention, according to Spain’s Maritime Safety and Rescue Society.

The survivors were all from Nigeria, the Spanish government’s delegation to the Canary Islands told The Associated Press. One of them remained in hospital on Tuesday.

The maritime rescue service, known in Spain as Salvamento Marítimo. shared a photo of the three men perched atop the helm beneath the ship’s massive hull, their feet just inches above the water.

According to the MarineTraffic tracking website, the ship sailing under Malta left Lagos, Nigeria on Nov. 17 and arrived in Las Palmas on Monday. The distance between the ports is about 4,600 kilometers (2,800 mi).

Other people were previously discovered clinging to rudders as they risked their lives to reach the Spanish islands in northwestern Africa. Salvamento Maritimo has dealt with six similar cases in the past two years, according to Sofía Hernández, head of the agency’s coordination center in Las Palmas.

Migrants can take cover in the box-like structure around the rudder, Hernández explains, but are still vulnerable to bad weather and rough seas. “It’s very dangerous,” she told the AP.

A ship’s fluctuating draft—the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull—is another danger for such stowaways. The levels vary depending on the weight of the cargo on board.

“We are talking about meters difference. This part could have been submerged perfectly in the water,” Hernández said.

In 2020, the 14-year-old Nigerian boy was interviewed by Spanish newspaper El País after surviving on the helm of a ship for two weeks. He had also left Lagos.

“It’s not the first time and it won’t be the last,” tweeted Txema Santana, a journalist and migration adviser to the Canary Islands regional government.

In such cases, the shipowner is responsible for returning the stowaways to their point of departure, said the Spanish government delegation to the islands.

Thousands of migrants and refugees from North and West Africa have reached the Canary Islands irregularly in recent years. Most make the perilous Atlantic crossing on overcrowded boats after departing from the coasts of Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and even Senegal.

More than 11,600 people have reached the Spanish islands by boat this year, according to figures from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior.

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The Valley Voice
The Valley Voicehttp://thevalleyvoice.org
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.

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