An incredible photo shared on Twitter by the Spanish coastguard on Tuesday, 29 November 2022, went viral. Three men are photographed sitting on the rudder of an oil tanker with their feet hanging just a few inches above the waterline.
The three migrants were found miraculously alive by Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service after the survivors arrived at the Port of Las Palmas in the Canary Islands on Monday evening on the rudder of Alithini II.
According to Marine Traffic, the 183-meter ship sailed from Lagos on November 17th, navigated through the West African coast, where the three men endured a dangerous 11-day journey until arriving in Las Palmas.
At the mercy of the rough seas and vulnerable to bad weather, the migrants survived beyond expectations the 3,000 km journey (2,000 miles), but they needed immediate medical attention for dehydration, hypothermia, and fatigue.
Sofía Hernández, Head of the Las Palmas Maritime Rescue Coordination Center stated: “Anyone who knows a little about the nautical subject, realizes that these are some of the worst conditions that exists. Even worse than an inflatable boat.”
She continues: “It’s a site that is not enabled to house a person, with environmental conditions of the open sea and the risk of dying from dehydration, or because you fall into the water due to a stroke, or due to hypothermia, the rudder can also be flooded. The risk is maximum.”
According to a police spokesperson from the Canary Islands, in these cases the ship owner is responsible to take care of the survivors and return them to their country of origin.
It is not the first time, nor will it be the last something similar happens. Due to geographical position, the Canary Islands are a popular gateway for African migrants risking their lives and fleeing their countries for a better life in Europe.
Spain’s Maritime Rescue Service have stated that they have coped with similar incidents in recent years. But most migrants make the Atlantic crossing on crowded boats. Data from the Spanish Government shows that so far this year, 14,875 people have arrived in Spain coast by precarious boats.