Stowaways survive 11-day sea journey on oil tanker’s rudder (updated)

LAS PALMAS, 30 Nov 2022:

Three African men survived a 11-day journey hidden on top of the rudder of an oil tanker that sailed non-stop from Lagos, Nigeria to Las Palmas, in the Canary Islands, Spain’s coast guard has said.

The three stowaways were disembarked and received urgent care at the port, and were later taken to two different hospitals for treatment for moderate dehydration.

A Spanish government source yesterday said as they had arrived as stowaways, they are not legally considered migrants and will not be allowed ashore. They will be returned to the ship for the crew to take care of them until it returns to Nigeria.

Two of them are already on board the tanker, with the third following once he leaves hospital.

It was later revealed that these three stowaways have been permitted to remain in port by the Spanish authorities after they requested asylum.

Since the news of their arrival became known, the Spanish Commission for Refugees (CEAR), the Catholic Church, and other NGOs have worked to prevent their expulsion from the country without at least assessing their personal circumstances.

The three of them were hidden aboard the Alithini II, from Malta, which sailed from Lagos on Nov 17. Spanish authorities authorised the vessel to leave port and continue its route without the migrants.

An image provided by Salvamento Marítimo on Monday night shows where they were found: a small space under the stern where the rudder fits into the hull, just above the water line.

“It is a place that is not suitable for a person and at the sea, the risk is to lose one’s life. The risk is maximum,” explained Sofía Hernández, head of Salvamento Marítimo.

Hernández highlighted this was not the first case, with several similar examples since 2018, including four in 2020 alone, when 15 people, including one minor, were rescued.

Spanish journalist and migration advisor to the Canary Islands government, Txema Santana, issued a statement on Twitter in which he warned the ongoing migration crisis would see more similarly dangerous crossing attempts.

“This is not the first time and it will not be the last,” he said. “Stowaways are not always this lucky.”