Four Nigerian men fled the country clinging to a small space above the rudder of a cargo ship hoping to find their way to Europe, but took a wrong turn crossing the Atlantic Ocean and landed up in Brazil, where they were rescued by port police.
The death-defying journey took them 14 days with a distance spanning 5,600 kilometres (3,500 miles) of ocean.
However, the stowaways ran out of food and drink on their tenth day at sea, and managed to survive for another four days by drinking the sea water crashing a few feet below them, Reuters reported the men as saying.
The four men said they had hoped to reach Europe and were quite surprised to learn they had landed in Brazil, a South American country.
Roman Ebimene Friday, a 35-year-old man from Bayelsa state, had already made an effort to leave Nigeria before but had been arrested by authorities.
Friday’s second migration attempt began on June 27, when a fisherman friend rowed him up to the stern of the ship docked in Lagos, and left him by the rudder.
To his surprise, he said three men were already there, waiting for the ship to depart. Friday said he was terrified. He had never met his new shipmates and feared they could toss him into the water at any moment.
Once the journey began, Friday said all the four men were very careful not to make a noise so they would not be discovered by the ship’s crew, who they feared would have given them up to the sea if they found out.
“Maybe if they catch you they will throw you in the water,” he said. “So we taught ourselves never to make a noise.”
Spending two weeks within metres of the Atlantic Ocean, where they could see “big fish like whales and sharks” was rugged.
To prevent themselves from falling into the water, Friday said the men rigged up a net around the rudder and tied themselves to it with a rope.
Due to the cramped conditions and the noise of the engine, sleep was rare and risky.
Thankgod Opemipo Matthew Yeye, a 38-year-old pastor from Lagos, said his peanut and palm oil farm was destroyed by floods this year, leaving him and his family homeless. He had hoped they could now join him in Brazil.
Both men said the economic difficulty, biting inflation, and persistent violence triggered their attempts to flee Nigeria.
Two of the men have since been returned to Nigeria upon their request, while Yeye and Friday have applied for asylum in Brazil.
Paolo Parise, a priest at the Sao Paulo shelter where the men were interviewed, said he had come across other cases of stowaways, but never one so dangerous.
Their journey paid testament to lengths people will go to in search of a new start, he said, adding that people do unimaginable and deeply dangerous things.
In November 2022, the Spanish police found three stowaways on the rudder of a ship that arrived in the Canary Islands from Nigeria.
The migrants who spent 11 days perched on the ship’s rudder were found dehydrated. Spanish police said the men would be deported back to Nigeria.
Source: Thecable.ng, Reuters.