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Stowaways travel from Nigeria to the Canary Islands at the helm of a ship

The three men rescued by the Spanish coast guard after 11 days at sea appeared to have symptoms of dehydration and hypothermia.

Three stowaways traveling for 11 days at the helm of a ship have been rescued by the Spanish coast guard and hospitalized in the Canary Islands, Spanish authorities said.

The large ship had left Lagos, Nigeria, on November 17, according to the ship-tracking website Marine Traffic, and the men were rescued on Monday.

Found on the Alithini II oil tanker in the port of Las Palmas, the men appeared to have symptoms of dehydration and hypothermia and were taken to hospitals on the island for medical attention, Spain’s Salvamento Marítimo said.

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Throughout the journey, at least three migrants and refugees had been dangling from the narrow metal rudder, their feet dangling just meters above the Atlantic Ocean.

In a photograph that the Spanish Coast Guard distributed on Twitter on Monday, the three men are seen perched on the rudder of the tanker.

The coast guard said it rescued the stowaways after the tanker had docked.

Although extremely dangerous, it is not the first time that stowaways have been found traveling at the helm of commercial ships to the Canary Islands, which lies some 97 km (60 miles) off the coast of Morocco.

At the end of 2020, Spanish authorities identified another six traveling from Nigeria with the rudders of two oil tankers.

One of those who arrived in 2020 was a 14-year-old boy who narrated his harrowing two-week journey to the Spanish newspaper El País.

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He described how the stowaways had to take turns sleeping because there was enough space for only one person to lie down at a time; how there was a fight and he was almost thrown from the helm; how they got cold and wet and took hours to dry; how his urine turned green after drinking seawater.

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In a tweet, the Minister of Migration in the Canary Islands, Txema Santana, warned that newcomers “will not be the last” and that “stowaways do not always have the same luck.”

The migration route from West Africa to Spain’s Canary Islands is one of the most dangerous in the world.

In September, Santana estimated that some 1,000 migrants and refugees have died or disappeared trying to reach the Spanish archipelago this year.

As of November 15, almost 15,000 migrants and refugees arrived in the Canary Islands by sea this year, 18 percent less than in the same period in 2021, according to Spain’s Interior Ministry. Most make the long journey from West Africa on small rafts, an increasing number of which are inflatable.

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