Spanish coastguard rescues three stowaways on a ship rudderafter completing its 11-day journey from Nigeria, Spanish authorities said. Two of the three stowaways who were rescued were brought back to the ship in an effort to deport them.
According to a spokesperson for the local government on Gran Canaria, the third individual, who was hospitalized on Gran Canaria after suffering from hypothermia and dehydration throughout the journey, has not yet been discharged from the facility.
According to a representative for the Spanish police, any stowaway who does not request refuge is required by Spanish law to be returned by the operator of the ship to the port from which they embarked on their journey.
The men can be seen in a photo that was provided by the coastguard with their feet being less than one meter away from the water as they sit on the rudder that is located at the stern of the oil tanker. It is not entirely clear whether or not they spent the entirety of the trip sitting on the rudder.
According to information gathered by maritime tracking services, the ship bearing the flag of Malta, the Althini II, landed in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, on November 17 after setting sail from Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria. This was a journey of more than 2,700 nautical miles.
The captain of the ship verified to the Red Cross that it had left Nigeria eleven days ago when they asked him about it. A representative for the Canary Islands Police Department stated that it was the responsibility of the ship's operator to look after the stowaways, find them temporary housing, and get them back to where they came from as quickly as possible.
According to Helena Maleno, director of the non-governmental organization Walking Borders, which focuses on migration issues, the migrants should have been questioned and informed of their right to ask for political asylum before being returned to the ship. This is the bare minimum that should have been done.
The conditions of the journey are already an indication that something very serious may be behind it because the photos are incredible. We have never seen conditions like this where they have arrived alive. These people have to be in a state of shock. They need a couple of days to recover and from there they can explain what they were running from to have made that decision.- Helena Maleno, director of the non-governmental organization Walking Borders
On Monday evening about 7:00 PM local time (19:00 GMT), a coast guard vessel is credited with saving the lives of the migrants, according to the coast guard. Stowaways have been discovered on rudders, which are big fins that look like blades and are located under ships, and are used for steering, and this is not the first time this has happened.
A young lad who was 14 years old at the time and traveled from Lagos to Gran Canaria in 2020 told the newspaper El Pais that he spent the entire journey on the rudder a massive fuel tanker while it traveled from Lagos to Gran Canaria.
After surviving on salt water and taking turns sleeping in a hole above the rudder with the other men he was traveling with, he was taken to the hospital as soon as they arrived.
"We were very weak. I never imagined it could be this hard," he said.
Another event occurred in the same year when four people were discovered on the rudder of the Norwegian oil tanker Champion Pula after it had traveled from Lagos to Las Palmas. This incident took place in the same year. During the ten days, while the ship was out at sea, it was reported that the men hid in a compartment that was located behind the rudder.
In recent years, there has been a substantial increase in the number of migrants who sail from west Africa to the Canary Islands, which are owned and controlled by Spain.
Canary Islands, which are a popular route for African migrants trying to enter Europe, are also known for their high risk. According to the International Organization for Migration, since 2014, a total of 2,976 migrants have died or gone missing while attempting to sail from Africa to the archipelago.