Three men survive 11-day journey from Nigeria to Spain on ship rudder



Three men survived an 11-day journey precariously atop the helm of an oil tanker en route from Nigeria to Spain’s Canary Islands, Spain’s coastguard said Monday, as Europe sees its highest level of irregular migration in five years.

The stowaways, straddling a narrow strip of metal and exposed to the elements, were traveling on the Malta-powered Alithini II, which left Lagos Nov. 17, according to ship tracking site Marine Traffic. The tanker arrived Monday evening in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, located off the coast of North Africa. The ports are nearly 3,000 miles apart.

On a photo shared by the Spanish Coast Guard on Twitter, the three men sit on the strip of the ship’s rudder sticking out of the water, their backs bent against the ship’s hull. A Coast Guard lifeboat picked up the men and took them to the port of Las Palmas to be treated by health services, the Coast Guard tweeted.

The survivors came from Nigeria, the Spanish government delegation in the Canary Islands told the Associated Press. One of them was still in the hospital on Tuesday.

Txema Santana, a migration adviser to the Canary Islands authorities, says the survival odyssey goes far beyond fiction. wrote on Twitter. “It’s not the first and it won’t be the last. Stowaways don’t always have the same luck.”

The rescue comes amid tensions within the European Union over migration policies, as countries in southern Europe – particularly France and Italy – argue over who should take on the growing number of migrants arriving by sea.

France accepts migrant rescue ship rejected by Italy as tensions flare

More than 165,000 irregular migrants, many seeking asylum, have arrived in Europe this year, the highest number since 2017, when 187,499 were registered, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The journey of the three stowaways is an outlier in recent migration patterns to Europe. The bloc has seen an increase in arrivals over the past month, said Charlotte Slente, secretary general of the Danish Refugee Council, an aid organization that operates in dozens of countries. But lately, most asylum seekers arrive via land routes, cross the Balkans and head west through Europe.

Nearly 30,000 migrants will have arrived in Spain by 2022, a decrease from recent years, according to data from UNHCR, the United Nations’ refugee agency. More than 14,000 of them have landed on the coast of the Canary Islands, often on overcrowded, rickety boats, many of which are inflatable and unsuitable for ocean travel. The crossing is dangerous: last year 1,153 people died or went missing along the route to the Canary Islands, according to UNHCR.

“Overall, we have seen migrants and refugees continue to resort to dangerous sea and land journeys, reflecting the desperation and vulnerabilities they can face, as well as the lack of adequate, alternative, safer pathways,” UNHCR said. spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo. in an email Tuesday. “These include stowing in ships or airless containers and going out to sea in leaky boats.”

It is rare, although not unprecedented, for asylum seekers to hide out on commercial vessels. The Spanish coastguard has responded to six similar cases in the past two years, Sofía Hernández, head of the rescue coordination center in Las Palmas, told the AP. “It’s very dangerous,” she said of the journey aboard the ship’s helm. A 14-year-old made the journey from Nigeria atop a rudder in 2020, accompanied by older migrants, Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting border closures have led asylum seekers and migrants to take more dangerous routes from Africa to Europe, often with the help of smugglers, according to UNHCR.

“There have been a lot of efforts in recent years to actually control the borders, which has remarkably hindered access for people in need of protection and asylum,” Slente said, adding that her organization has observed an increasing number of cases where European border crossing authorities pushing asylum seekers back to the countries they came from.

Nearly 2,000 people have died this year on the Mediterranean and Northwest African maritime routes trying to reach Europe, according to Mantoo.

“What is needed are more state-led and better coordinated search and rescue efforts, predictable disembarkations in safe places and expedited access to screening and asylum procedures to identify those who may be in need of international protection and return – in safety and with dignity – those who don’t,” Filippo Grandi, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement ahead of a meeting of EU interior ministers last week.

Ministers met in Brussels to discuss an action plan for the Central Mediterranean, another major migration route to Europe. Part of that plan is the implementation of the voluntary “Declaration of Solidarity” agreed in June in relation to migrants arriving by sea in southern member states and dispersing them elsewhere in Europe.

“We cannot keep working by tackling one crisis at a time or one ship at a time,” Margaritis Schinas, European Commission vice president charged with coordinating the bloc’s Migration and Asylum Pact, told reporters, according to Germany’s DW News .

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
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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