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Stowaways Found on a Ship’s Rudder in Spain’s Canary Islands

November 29, 2022

BARCELONA, Spain — Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service says it has rescued three stowaways found on a ship’s rudder in the Canary Islands after the vessel sailed there from Nigeria.

The men, found on the Alithini II oil tanker at the Las Palmas port, appeared to have symptoms of dehydration and hypothermia and were transferred to hospitals on the island for medical attention, Spain’s Salvamento Marítimo said.

The agency shared a photo of the three men sitting on top of the rudder under the ship’s massive hull with their feet hanging only a few centimeters (inches) from the water.

According to the MarineTraffic website which tracks ships, the Malta-flagged vessel left Lagos, Nigeria on Nov. 17 and arrived in Las Palmas on Monday after an 11-day journey. The distance is roughly 3,000 kilometers (2,000 miles).

Though extremely dangerous, it is not the first time stowaways have been found risking their lives to reach Spain’s Canary Islands off Northwest Africa in this way. In 2020 a 14-year-old Nigerian boy was interviewed by Spain’s El País newspaper after surviving two weeks on a ship’s rudder, at the mercy of bad weather and rough seas. He had also departed from Lagos.

“It’s not the first time nor will it be the last,” tweeted Txema Santana, a journalist and migration advisor to the regional government of the Canary Islands.

Santana added that on previous occasions where this has happened, the ship owner is usually responsible for returning the stowaways to their point of departure.

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

More than 11,600 people have reached the Spanish islands by boat so far this year, according to figures released by Spain’s Interior Ministry.

 

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