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MIGRANT CRISIS

Shock as stowaways rescued in Spain after 11 days sat on ship’s rudder

Three migrants who arrived in Spain after enduring an 11-day journey without food or water from Nigeria on the rudder of a fuel tanker were returned to the ship Tuesday after receiving medical care, officials said.

Shock as stowaways rescued in Spain after 11 days sat on ship's rudder
Image showing the three exhausted migrants sitting on the ship's tanker. Photo: Salvamento Marítimo

The men were found when the Alithini II docked in Las Palmas on the island of Gran Canaria on Monday evening.

A photo shared on social media by the Spanish coastguard shows them sitting on the rudder of the oil tanker’s stern, their feet just above the waterline.

“They were tired and had symptoms of hypothermia and when they arrived at the port they were attended by health services,” the coastguard said in a statement.

Local emergency services said the three men were dehydrated and needed hospital care.

The three migrants were on Tuesday returned to the Maltese-flagged ship, which will have to take them back to Nigeria, a spokesman for the central government’s representative in the Canary Islands told AFP.

A ship’s operator must take care of any stowaways and “has to bring them back to their port of origin”, he said.

“If there are stowaways on a plane, the airline is responsible for them,” he added.

Officials gave no details about the nationality of the migrants or if they had requested asylum in Spain.

The Alithini II departed Nigeria’s largest city Lagos for Las Palmas — a journey of over 2,700 nautical miles — on November 17, according to maritime tracking websites.

Spain’s Canary Islands, located in the Atlantic off the northwest coast of Africa, are a popular gateway for migrants attempting to reach Europe.

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MIGRANT CRISIS

13 Moroccans drown trying to reach Spanish territory

The bodies of 13 Moroccans have been recovered after their boat sank off the country's southern coast while attempting to reach Spain's Canary Islands, Moroccan media reported.

13 Moroccans drown trying to reach Spanish territory

Spain is one of the main gateways for migrants to reach Europe. Tens of thousands also try each year from the coastlines of other North African countries, including Libya where coast guards on Saturday rescued hundreds of migrants.

The 45 passengers on board the ill-fated Moroccan boat were attempting to reach the Canary Islands’ main city of Las Palmas when it hit a rock and sank Friday, “10 minutes after” embarking near the town of Mirleft, according to online news service Hespress.

About half of them, 24, were rescued from the water, the Arabic-language site reported.

One woman was among the dead, and eight of the passengers remained unaccounted for.

AFP contacted Moroccan authorities to confirm the deaths but received no immediate comment.

Morocco’s 2M news service reported the passengers had used an inflatable boat which was quickly “damaged and the victims found themselves in the middle of the waves”.

Passage on the vessel had cost between 20,000 and 25,000 Moroccan dirhams ($1,900 to $2,400), Hespress said.

Located at Africa’s northwestern tip, Morocco is a transit country for many migrants, particularly sub-Saharan Africans. Fleeing poverty and violence, they seek to reach Europe from Morocco’s Atlantic or Mediterranean coasts.

Others attempt the crossing from Morocco’s neighbours further east on the Mediterranean.

Thousands dead, missing

Naval special forces in eastern Libya, northwest of Benghazi city, intercepted a trawler carrying nearly 650 migrants trying to reach Europe, according to the media bureau of eastern naval headquarters, in a Facebook statement on Saturday.

The migrants included Bangladeshis, Syrians and Egyptians, the media bureau quoted naval commander Ramzi Najem as saying.

The west of war-scarred Libya had been the centre of clandestine migrant departures. However, crossing attempts using trawlers and large-capacity fishing vessels have multiplied from Libya’s east, where a rival administration is in charge.

READ ALSO: Almost 2,100 migrants have died trying to reach Spain in first half of 2021: NGO

In October, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said more than 14,000 migrants had been intercepted and returned to Libya during the year.

Libya is regularly criticised for its treatment of migrants, with human rights groups alleging horrific treatment at the hands of smuggling gangs and inside state-run detention centres.

Off the coast of neighbouring Tunisia, more than 22,500 migrants had been intercepted this year, according to official figures up to October.

Spanish human rights group Caminando Fronteras (Frontline Defenders) said in early December that more than 11,200 migrants have died or gone missing while trying to reach Spain since 2018, an average of six per day.

The route between Morocco and the Canary Islands alone accounted for 7,692 of these deaths, the group said.

The second most dangerous route is between Algeria and Spain where 1,526 people died over the same period.

Since late 2019, the number of migrants attempting clandestine crossings along the perilous Atlantic migration route surged as patrols in the Mediterranean intensified.

Spain’s interior ministry said on December 15 that a total of 27,789 migrants had reached Spanish territory illegally this year, including 15,742 arrivals in the Canary Islands.

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