Nigeria stowaways who survived 11 days on ship rudder ‘must return home’

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Three migrants who reportedly survived an 11-day journey from Nigeria to the Canary Islands balanced on the rudder of a fuel tanker should now be returned home under stowaway laws, a police spokesman has said.

A photograph posted to Twitter by the Spanish coast on Monday shows the three stowaways crouched on the rudder under ship’s hull, just above the waterline of the Alithini II.

The 183-metre vessel, sailing under a Maltese flag, arrived in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria after setting out from Lagos in Nigeria on 17 November, according to Marine Traffic. Its captain also confirmed to the Red Cross that the ship had sailed from Nigeria 11 days earlier.

A Canary Islands police spokesperson said it was up to the operator of the ship to take care of stowaways, provide them with temporary accommodation and return them to their origin as soon as possible.

The migrants may, however, be able to remain in Spain if they claim asylum, Helena Maleno, director of migration NGO Walking Borders, told Reuters.

“On several previous occasions, stowaways were able to remain in Spain with political asylum,” she explained.

Alithini II, which is owned by Gardenia Shiptrade SA, is managed by Athens-based Astra Ship Management, according to public shipping database Equasis.

The Independent has contacted Astra Ship Management for comment.

The coast guard said the migrants were rescued by a coast guard vessel at about 7pm local time.

The stowaways were being treated for moderate dehydration and hypothermia, the Canary Islands emergency services and the Red Cross said. One of the migrants was in a more serious state and had to be taken to a different hospital on the island.

The Spanish-owned Canary Islands are a popular gateway for African migrants attempting to reach Europe. The number of migrants arriving illegally to the archipelago by sea fell 17.6 per cent to 14,875 in the first ten months of 2022 from a year earlier, according to the Interior Ministry.

With additional reporting from Reuters

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