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Three stowaways headed a ship that arrived in Spain

The Malta-flagged ship departed Lagos, Nigeria on 17 November.

Spain’s Maritime Salvage Service said three stowaways were found in the lead of a ship in the Canary Islands after an 11-day voyage from Nigeria.

The men, who were found aboard the oil tanker Alitini II in the Spanish port of Las Palmas on Monday, showed signs of dehydration and hypothermia and were taken to hospitals on the island for medical attention, Salvamento Maritimo said.

A Spanish government mission in the Canaries told The Associated Press that the survivors were from Nigeria. One of them was also admitted to the hospital on Tuesday.

The company released a photo of three people sitting under the ship’s massive hull, a quarter-inch above the water.

The Maltese-flagged ship departed Lagos, Nigeria on November 17 and arrived in Las Palmas on Monday, according to ship tracking website MarineTraffic. The distance is approximately 4,600 kilometers.

Others had previously been found clinging to rudders, risking their lives to reach the Spanish islands in northwest Africa.

According to Sofia Hernandez, who heads the coordination center for the service in Las Palmas, Maritime Rescue has handled six similar cases in the past two years.

Migrants can take shelter inside the box-shaped structure around the rudder, Hernandez explained, but they are vulnerable to bad weather and rough seas. “It’s very dangerous,” he told the AP.

Fluctuations in a ship’s draft level—the vertical distance between the waterline and the bottom of the hull—is another hazard for these stowaways. Levels vary depending on the weight of cargo on board.

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“We are talking about the fact that the difference (may be) several meters. That area may have been completely submerged in water,” commented Hernandez.

In 2020, a 14-year-old Nigerian boy was interviewed by Spanish newspaper El Pais after surviving a two-week voyage at the helm of a ship. It also departs from Lagos.

Txema Santana, a journalist and migration adviser for the Canary Islands’ regional government, tweeted: “This is not the first time, and it will not be the last time.”

According to a Spanish government group in the Canary Islands, in such cases, the shipowner usually returns the stowaways to their place of departure.

Thousands of migrants and refugees from North and West Africa have periodically arrived in the Canary Islands in recent years.

Most begin the perilous crossing of the Atlantic in heavily laden ships off the coast of Morocco, Western Sahara, Mauritania and Senegal.

According to statistics from the Spanish Ministry of the Interior, more than 11,600 people have arrived in the Spanish islands this year.

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