Two of three stowaways from Nigeria have been returned to the ship with the aim of deporting them.
Spanish authorities have ordered the deportation of three Nigerians rescued in Spain’s Canary Islands after an 11-day journey from Nigeria crouched on the rudder of a fuel tanker.
The migrants are set to return home under stowaway laws, according to Reuters.
Indeed, two of three stowaways from Nigeria have been returned to the ship with the aim of deporting them.
The third person, who suffered hypothermia and dehydration during the voyage, has not yet been released from the hospital, a local government spokesperson said.
The three stowaways are shown crouching on the rudder under the hull, just above the waterline of the Alithini II in a photograph by Spanish coast guard on Monday, November 28, 2022.
The 183-metre ship, sailing under a Maltese flag, arrived in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria after setting out from Lagos in Nigeria on November 17, 2022, navigating the West African coast.
A police spokesperson said it was up to the ship’s operator to take care of stowaways, provide them with temporary accommodation and return them to their origin as soon as possible.
However, Helena Maleno, director of migration of the non-governmental organisation Walking Borders, said the migrants may be able to remain in Spain if they claim asylum.
“On several previous occasions, stowaways were able to remain in Spain with political asylum,” Maleno said.
The coast guard said the migrants were rescued by a coast guard vessel at about 7 p.m. local time (1900 GMT) on Monday.
The Canary Islands emergency services and the Red Cross said the stowaways were being treated for moderate dehydration and hypothermia.
One of the migrants was in a more serious state and had to be taken to a different hospital on the island.
According to the MarineTraffic tracking website, the Malta-flagged vessel left Lagos, Nigeria on November 17 and arrived in Las Palmas on Monday. The distance between the ports is roughly 4,600 kilometres (2,800 miles).
Other people were previously discovered clinging to rudders while risking their lives to reach the Spanish islands located off northwest Africa. Salvamento Maritimo has dealt with six similar cases in the last two years, according to Sofía Hernández who heads the service’s coordination centre in Las Palmas.
Migrants may seek cover inside the box-like structure around the rudder, Hernández explained, but are still vulnerable to bad weather and rough seas. “It is very dangerous,” she told the AP.
A ship’s fluctuating draft level – the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull- is another hazard for such stowaways. The levels vary depending on the weight of the cargo onboard.
“We are talking about several meters difference. This part could have been perfectly submerged in the water,” Hernández said.