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Three men survive the 11-day voyage from Nigeria to Spain aboard a ship’s rudder

Three men survive the 11-day voyage from Nigeria to Spain aboard a ship's rudder
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Three men survived an 11-day voyage aboard an oil tanker en route from Nigeria to Spain’s Canary Islands, Spain’s Coast Guard said on Monday, as Europe sees the highest level of irregular migration in five years.

The stowaways, who were perched on a narrow strip of metal and exposed to the elements, were traveling on the Maltese-flagged Alithini II, leaving Lagos on 11/17, according to the ship’s tracking site maritime transport. The tanker arrived in Las Palmas in Gran Canaria – one of Spain’s Canary Islands off the coast of North Africa – on Monday evening. The ports are almost 3,000 miles apart.

On a photo divided from the Spanish Coast Guard on Twitter, the three men sit on the splinter of the ship’s rudder sticking out of the water, their backs against the ship’s hull. A Coast Guard lifeboat picked up the men and took them to the port of Las Palmas, where they were treated by health services, the Coast Guard tweeted.

The survivors were from Nigeria, the Spanish government’s delegation to the Canary Islands said the Associated Press. One of them was still in the hospital as of Tuesday.

“The odyssey of survival goes well beyond fiction,” says Txema Santana, migration advisor to the Canary Islands authorities. wrote on Twitter. “It’s not the first and it won’t be the last. Stowaways don’t always have the same luck.”

The rescue comes amid tensions within the European Union over migration policy, as countries in southern Europe – Especially France and Italy — arguing over who should take care of the growing number of migrants arriving by sea.

France accepts a migrant rescue ship rejected by Italy as tensions flare

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

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

Almost 30,000 migrants arrived in Spain in 2022, a decrease compared to recent years, they say given by UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency. More than 14,000 of these have landed on the coasts of the Canary Islands, often on overcrowded, rickety boats, many of them on inflatable boats and unsuitable for sea voyages. The crossing is dangerous – 1,153 people died or were missing on the route to the Canary Islands last year. said UNHCR.

“In general, we have seen migrants and refugees continue to resort to dangerous sea and land travel, reflecting the desperation and vulnerability they may face and the lack of sufficient, alternative and safer routes,” UNHCR spokeswoman said Shabia Mantoo in an email Tuesday. “This includes, among other things, stowage in ships or airless containers and sailing in leaking boats.”

It is rare, though not unprecedented, for asylum seekers to go blind on merchant ships. The Spanish Coast Guard has responded to six similar cases over the past two years, Sofía Hernández, head of the rescue services coordination center in Las Palmas, told the AP. “It’s very dangerous,” she said of the journey aboard the ship’s rudder. A 14-year-old made the journey from Nigeria on an oar accompanied by elderly migrants in 2020, reports Spanish newspaper El Pais reported.

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

“In recent years, many efforts have been made to actually control the borders, which has made access for people in need of protection and asylum difficult in a remarkable way,” Slente said, adding that her organization is seeing an increasing number of cases at European borders Authorities push asylum seekers back to the countries they came from.

Nearly 2,000 people have lost their lives this year on sea routes in the Mediterranean Sea and northwest Africa trying to reach Europe, Mantoo said.

“What is needed are more state-led and better coordinated search and rescue efforts, predictable disembarkations in safe locations, and expedited access to screening and asylum procedures to identify those who may be in need of international protection and return – safely and with 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.

Ministers gathered in Brussels to discuss one action plan for the central Mediterranean, another important migratory route to Europe. Part of this plan involves implementing the voluntary “declaration of solidarity” agreed in June regarding migrants arriving by sea in southern member states and their distribution to other European countries.

“We cannot continue to work by tackling one crisis at a time or one ship at a time,” Margaritis Schinas, vice-president of the European Commission responsible for coordinating the bloc’s migration and asylum pact, told reporters. according to DW News.

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