A photo shared on Tuesday (29/11) shows three men who survived an 11-day journey from Nigeria to Spain sitting on the rudder blade of a large oil tanker.
The image was released by the Salvamento Maritimo agency, linked to the government of Spain, which rescued the three men after they arrived at the port of Las Palmas, on the island of Gran Canaria.
The rescue, according to official bodies and the EFE agency, took place after the three migrants — of African origin — were spotted on the bottom of the ship.
They were traveling on the Maltese-flagged oil tanker called Alithini II, which left the port of Lagos, Nigeria, on November 17, according to the rescue agency.
The place where they were found is a space located on the so-called rudder blade, outside the ship’s hull, where they are out in the open and vulnerable to the violence of the sea.
The migrants were referred to health centers on the island where it was found that, despite the conditions of the journey and dehydration, they were in good general health.
“They left Nigeria more than a week ago, the time they spent at the helm of the ship, very close to the water. The odyssey of survival far surpasses fiction. It’s not the first and it won’t be the last. The stowaways don’t always have the same fate,” wrote Spanish journalist Txema Santana, who specializes in migration issues, on Twitter.
Authorities indicated that this is not the first time migrants have been detected at the helm of a ship. In November 2020, another three people were found on the rudder blade of the Ocean Princess II ship.
One of them, a 14-year-old boy, told the newspaper El País how he survived the trip by drinking salt water and how he took turns sleeping in a hole above the helm with the other men he was traveling with.
“We were very weak. I never imagined it could be so difficult,” he said.
In another incident in the same year, four men were found at the helm of the Norwegian oil tanker Champion Pula after they had traveled from Lagos to Las Palmas.
Reports at the time said that the men hid in a compartment behind the helm during their 10 days at sea.
The number of migrants crossing by boat from West Africa to the Canary Islands has increased significantly in recent years.
The journeys are long, dangerous and deadly. In 2021, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) recorded 1,532 deaths on the route.