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Stowaways Survive After Spending 11 Days Clinging to Rudder of Oil Tanker


Lagos Nigeria stowaways on ship rudder
Photo- Salvamento Maritimo via AP

Three migrants somehow arrived in the Canary Islands from Nigeria after miraculously surviving for 11 days clinging to the rudder of an oil tanker.


On Monday, November 28th, the Spanish Coast Guard shared a picture of three men resting atop the rudder of the oil tanker Alithini II. The tanker had just completed an 11-day journey from Lagos, the largest city in Nigeria which rests on the southern coast of the Gulf of Guinea, to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, an island off the northwest coast of Africa.


To make it from Lagos to Las Palmas by land, it's a 6500 km (4000 mile) journey that involves going north and taking a ferry to Spain, then traveling west through Spain by car, and then taking another ferry to travel around northern Africa to reach Lagos. It's a 9 hour flight if you attempt it by plane. For migrants seeking asylum, obviously neither option is likely and many resort to stowing away aboard commercial ships which can take weeks to make the trip.


According to government officials in the Canary Islands, the migrants were hospitalized for dehydration and hypothermia after their journey but were otherwise in good health.


According to the MarineTraffic tracking website, the Alithini II left Lagos, Nigeria on November 17th and arrived in Las Palmas on Monday November 28th. The distance between the ports is roughly 4600 kilometers (2850 miles).


According to Marine Industry News UK, it's not the first time migrants have used this method to reach the Canary Islands. In November 2020, three people were found balanced on the rudder of Ocean Princess II, and in October 2020 another three arrived aboard Norwegian oil tanker Champion Pula. There has been a significant rise in the number of migrants crossing on boats from west Africa to the Spanish-owned Canary Islands in recent years. with 1532 deaths along the route in 2021 alone according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM).


According to the Spanish government delegation in the Canary Islands, in cases of stowaways the ship's owner is legally responsible for bringing them back to their point of departure.


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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