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


Three people survived a perilous 11-day voyage behind the wheel of an oil tanker bound for Spain’s Canary Islands from Nigeria, Spain’s coast guard said Monday, as Europe sees its highest level of illegal migration in five years.

According to the ship tracking website Marine Traffic, the refugees, who walked a narrow metal strip and were exposed to the elements, traveled on the Maltese-flagged Alitini II, which left Lagos on November 17. The tanker arrived in Las Palmas on Monday evening in Gran Canaria, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, off the coast of North Africa. The ports are almost 3,000 miles apart.

In the picture shared According to a statement on Twitter by the Spanish Coast Guard, the three men were sitting on the ship’s rudder line sticking out of the water, with their backs to the ship’s hull. A Coast Guard rescue boat picked up the men and brought them to the port of Las Palmas for treatment by health services, the Coast Guard said.

The survivors were from Nigeria, a Spanish government delegation in the Canary Islands told The Associated Press. One of them was also hospitalized on Tuesday.

“The odyssey of survival is more than fiction,” says Txema Santana, migration adviser to the Canary Islands authorities. He wrote on Twitter. “This is not the first and it will not be the last. Refugees are not always lucky.”

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

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According to the International Organization for Migration, more than 165,000 illegal migrants have arrived in Europe this year, most of them seeking asylum.

The journey of the three refugees differs from recent migration patterns to Europe. Charlotte Slente, secretary general of the Danish Refugee Council, which works in dozens of countries, said the bloc had seen an increase in arrivals over the past month. But more recently, many asylum seekers have been arriving by land routes, crossing the Balkans and moving west through Europe.

According to the UN Refugee Agency, almost 30,000 migrants will arrive in Spain in 2022, a decrease compared to recent years. More than 14,000 of them landed on the coast of the Canary Islands, often in overcrowded boats, many of which were inflatable and unsuitable for ocean travel. The crossing is dangerous — 1,153 people died or went missing on the way to the Canary Islands last year, according to the UNHCR.

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“Overall, we see migrants and refugees continue to make dangerous sea and land journeys, reflecting the desperation and vulnerability they may face, as well as the lack of sufficient, alternative, safe routes,” said UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo. Tuesday via email. “These include loading onto ships or air-tight containers and going into the sea in floating boats, among others.”

Asylum seekers being stranded on commercial ships is rare but not unprecedented. Sofia Hernandez, head of the rescue coordination center in Las Palmas, told the AP that Spain’s coast guard has responded to six similar incidents in the past two years. “It’s very dangerous,” he said of the trip at the helm of the ship. According to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, the 14-year-old, accompanied by elderly migrants, traveled from Nigeria in 2020 on the steering wheel.

The coronavirus pandemic and the resulting border closures have prompted asylum seekers and migrants to travel dangerous routes from Africa to Europe, many with the help of smugglers, according to the UNHCR.

“There has been a lot of effort in recent years to really control the borders, which has made it much more difficult for people in need of protection and asylum to enter,” Slente said, adding that his organization has seen an increase in cases bordering Europe. authorities push asylum seekers back to their countries of origin.

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About 2,000 people have died trying to reach Europe this year on sea routes between the Mediterranean and northwest Africa, Mantoo said.

“What is needed is state-led and better-coordinated search and rescue efforts, targeted drop-offs in safe havens, and rapid access to screening and asylum procedures to identify those in need of international protection and return safely and with dignity — those who do not,” the UN said. Filippo Grandi, the High Commissioner for Refugees, said in a statement on the eve 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 this plan includes the implementation of the voluntary “Declaration of Solidarity” agreed in June for migrants arriving by sea in southern member states.

According to Germany’s DW News, Margaritis Sinas, the European Commission’s vice-president responsible for coordinating the migration and asylum agreement, told reporters: “We cannot continue to deal with one crisis or one ship at a time.”


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