Three men were discovered on the rudder of a ship after they stowed away during an 11-day journey across the ocean from Nigeria to the Canary Islands.
Two of the discovered stowaways were helped and put back on the ship in order to be deported. A local government spokesperson reportedly said that the third person had hypothermia and dehydration and is still in a hospital on Gran Canaria, one of the islands. A law enforcement spokesperson told Reuters that the law in Spain states that if a stowaway doesn’t seek asylum, they have to be sent back to the original port by whomever runs the ship.
According to the coast guard, the men were saved by a coast guard ship around 7p.m. local time on Monday evening.
Three migrants rescued in Spain's Canary Islands, after apparently enduring an 11-day journey from Nigeria crouched on the rudder of a fuel tanker, should now be returned home under stowaway laws, a police spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday. https://t.co/l8yQpjzyuG pic.twitter.com/g51XlWKFJt
— Reuters Africa (@ReutersAfrica) November 29, 2022
Helena Maleno, director of Walking Borders, said that the stowaway men should have been told they had the right to request political asylum and should have been asked questions before they were put back on the boat, per Reuters.
“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,” Maleno pointed out. “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.”
Many migrants attempt to get to Europe by way of the Canary Islands, but it is not a safe or pleasant journey. This year, over 11,600 people have come to the Spanish islands via ships, according to Spain’s Interior Ministry, the Associated Press reported.
The MarineTraffic tracking site reportedly revealed that the boat departed from Nigeria on November 17 and got to Las Palmas on Monday — a distance of around 2,800 miles.
In 2020, a 14-year-old teen arrived in Gran Canaria from Lagos after traveling for 15 days on a tanker’s rudder. He drank salt water and alternated sleeping in a hole located over the rudder with the other men on the journey.
“We were very weak. I never imagined it could be this hard,” he told outlet El Pais.
The amount of people coming to the Canary Islands from the western region of Africa has skyrocketed over the past few years.
As the BBC reported in 2020, from January to the end of July of that year, 3,269 migrants journeyed from West Africa to the Canary Islands. The number is almost a 600% spike from the same period of time in 2019, according to the International Organization for Migration.
Last year, the United Nation’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) stated there were 1,126 fatalities on the dangerous path.