The photo above, which shows three migrants sitting on the rudder of a ship after 11 days of travel, shocked the world.
Now, two days after being rescued off the coast of the Canary Islands, they’ve achieved their goal: staying in Spain, at least for now.
The oil tanker Alithini II, in which they were traveling clandestinely, finally received authorization from the Spanish government to set sail without them, as found out by BBC News Mundo, the BBC’s Spanish-language news service.
Initially, the government delegation in the Canary Islands had said that the three migrants would be taken back to the ship as soon as they recovered.
“There are three Nigerians of legal age. The three have applied for asylum, and one is still hospitalised,” the sub-delegation of the government in Las Palmas, on the island of Gran Canaria, told BBC News Mundo.
“The ship can run its course without them.”
The information was also confirmed to BBC News Mundo by the NGO Ca-minando Fronteras, which demanded that the Spanish authorities prevent the return of the three clandestine Nigerians.
“The fact that they underwent such a risky crossing should be considered as an indication to individually analyze the personal circumstances of the three shipwrecked people,” said the NGO, which had warned that two of the immigrants had been taken back to the ship on Tuesday. fair.
The NGO also requested that they be accommodated in one of the immigrant centers “so that they could receive the necessary assistance to recover emotionally and psychologically, given the nature of the events and the dangerous crossing that could have been fatal.”
What is known about their journey?
It is still not known exactly how they got to the tanker’s rudder blade. What is known is that the three Nigerians boarded her in the port of Lagos, Nigeria, before the Alithini II, flying the Maltese flag, set sail on 17 November.
The trip to the island of Gran Canaria lasted 11 days non-stop.
On Monday (11/28), they were rescued by the Maritime Salvage agency, linked to the government of Spain, after arriving at the port of Las Palmas, and being spotted at the bottom of the ship.
The place where they were found is a space located on the so-called rudder blade, on the outside of the ship’s hull, where they are out in the open and vulnerable to the violence of the sea.
The photo that would go around the world was taken by the captain of the Salvamar Nunki [barco da guarda costeira], Orlando Ramos Alayón, who rescued them. It is common practice to document rescues, as explained by the Maritime Rescue agency.
“It’s normal. If we succeed, we take these photos to keep as documentation”, explained Orlando Ramos in an official statement released on Wednesday.
“The real work, what matters, is the other, saving those three lives, managing to transfer people who arrive without strength, weakened, with hypothermia. Carry out a maneuver that does not endanger their lives.”
In what condition did they arrive?
“There were three sub-Saharan men with hypothermia and weakness. Two of those rescued were transferred to the Doctor Negrín Hospital, and the other in worse condition to the Insular Hospital”, informed the Maritime Rescue agency to BBC News Mundo.
And, according to them, what happens to the three from now on is “the responsibility of the State security forces and bodies”.
“Maritime Rescue is competent to help people and transport them to the port. Upon arriving on land, health services and State Security forces and agencies begin to take care of the case”, they observed.
Two of the Nigerians were discharged a short time later and were even taken back to the ship – but were removed again after applying for asylum.
Meanwhile, the third remains in hospital, where he is being treated for dehydration, although his life is no longer in danger, according to the authorities.
“It is a place that is not qualified to shelter a person, with environmental conditions of open sea and risk of dying from dehydration, from falling into the water with a blow from the sea, from hypothermia… maximum risk. And the compartment could flood. It is very possible, in fact, that this happens,” said Sofía Hernández, head of the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center of Las Palmas, which managed the rescue of these three people, in a statement to the EFE news agency.
The government sub-delegation in Las Palmas, on the island of Gran Canaria, reported that the three Nigerians had applied for asylum in Spain.
Under Spanish law, as soon as stowaways express their intention to apply for entry into Spanish territory, they are entitled to receive free legal assistance and also have the right to seek asylum.
“It is not the usual procedure to reach the islands”, explains the Maritime Rescue agency to BBC News Mundo.
So far, the body in charge of the rescue has registered five other similar cases in recent years.
In January 2018, Salvamar Nunki rescued four stowaways from the ship Green Sky who were hiding in the rudder blade.
In October 2020, four stowaways were found in the wheelhouse of the Norwegian oil tanker Champion Pula, after having traveled from Lagos to Las Palmas. In the same month, the Salvamar Nunki rescued seven stowaways from the helm of the ship Andromeda.
A month after that operation, in November, the same boat rescued a stowaway hidden in the rudder blade. And soon after, also in November, he found four other immigrants hidden on Ocean Princess I.
The NGO Ca-minando Fronteras points out that the “Rota das Canárias”, as it is known, is the one that causes the most victims.
During the first six months of 2022, the NGO recorded 800 deaths on this route. And, in 2021, according to the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM), 1,532 people lost their lives on the way.