Three men survive an 11-day journey from Nigeria to Spain at the helm of a ship

Three men survive an 11-day journey from Nigeria to Spain at the helm of a ship
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Three men survived an 11-day voyage perched precariously at the helm of an oil tanker en route from Nigeria to Spain’s Canary Islands, the Spanish coast guard said on Monday, as Europe records its highest level of irregular migration in five years.

The stowaways, straddling a narrow strip of metal and exposed to the elements, traveled on the Maltese-flagged Alithini II, which left Lagos on 11 November. 17, according to the ship tracking site Maritime traffic. The tanker arrived Monday night in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, one of Spain’s Canary Islands, located off the coast of North Africa. The ports are nearly 3,000 miles apart.

in a photo shared Per the Spanish coast guard on Twitter, the three men sit on the ship’s rudder splinter jutting out of the water, their backs hunched against the ship’s hull. A coast guard rescue boat picked up the men and took them to the port of Las Palmas to be treated by health services, the coast guard tweeted.

The survivors were from Nigeria, the Spanish Government delegation in the Canary Islands told the Associated Press. One of them was still hospitalized on Tuesday.

“The odyssey of survival goes far beyond fiction,” Txema Santana, migration adviser for the Canary Islands authorities, wrote on Twitter. “He is not the first and he will not be the last. Stowaways don’t always have the same luck.”

The bailout comes amid tensions within the European Union over migration policy, as southern European countries: France and Italy in particular — Discuss who should host the growing number of migrants arriving by sea.

France accepts migrant rescue ship rejected by Italy as tensions rise

More than 165,000 irregular migrants, many of them seeking asylum, have arrived in Europe this year, the highest number since 2017, when 187,499 were registered, according to the International Organization for Migration.

The journey of the three stowaways is an outlier in recent migration patterns to Europe. The bloc has seen a surge in arrivals over the past month, said Charlotte Slente, secretary general of the Danish Refugee Council, an aid agency that works in dozens of countries. But recently, most asylum seekers have arrived via land routes, crossing the Balkans and moving west through Europe.

Nearly 30,000 immigrants have arrived in Spain in 2022, a decrease compared to recent years, according to data UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency. More than 14,000 of them have landed on the shores of the Canary Islands, often in overcrowded and rickety boats, many inflatable and unsuitable for sea travel. The journey is dangerous: 1,153 people died or went missing along the route to the Canary Islands last year, UNHCR said.

“In general, we have seen migrants and refugees continue to resort to dangerous journeys by sea and land, reflecting the desperation and vulnerabilities they may face, as well as the lack of sufficient alternative and safer pathways,” the UNHCR spokeswoman said. , Shabia Mantoo. in an email on Tuesday. “These include stowaways on airless vessels or containers, and going to sea on leaky boats, among others.”

It is rare, though not unprecedented, for asylum seekers to stow away on commercial ships. The Spanish Coast Guard has responded to six similar cases in the last two years, Sofía Hernández, head of the coordination center for the salvage service in Las Palmas, told the AP. “It’s very dangerous,” she said of the trip aboard the ship’s helm. A 14-year-old boy, in the company of older immigrants, made the crossing from Nigeria on the back of a rudder in 2020, the Spanish newspaper El País reported.

The coronavirus pandemic and resulting border closures have driven asylum seekers and migrants to take more dangerous routes from Africa to Europe, many with the help of smugglers, according to UNHCR.

“There have been a lot of efforts in recent years to really control the borders, which has made it notably difficult for people who need protection and asylum to access,” Slente said, adding that his organization has seen an increasing number of cases where European borders The authorities force asylum seekers to return to their countries of origin.

Nearly 2,000 people have lost their lives this year on the Mediterranean and northwest African shipping lanes trying to reach Europe, Mantoo said.

“What is needed is more state-led and better coordinated search and rescue efforts, predictable landings in safe locations, and expedited access to screening and asylum procedures to identify those who may need international protection and return, safely and dignity. .” — Those who don’t,” said Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, in a statement ahead of a meeting of EU interior ministers last week.

The ministers met in Brussels to discuss a action plan for the central Mediterranean, another important migratory route towards Europe. Part of that plan involves implementing the voluntary “Solidarity Declaration” agreed in June regarding migrants arriving by sea in southern member states, distributing them elsewhere in Europe.

“We can’t keep working on tackling one crisis at a time or one ship at a time,” Margaritis Schinas, vice president of the European Commission in charge of coordinating the bloc’s Migration and Asylum Pact, told reporters. according to DW News from Germany.

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