Nigeria stowaways who survived 11-days on ship rudder must return home - Spanish police

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LAS PALMAS (Reuters) - Three migrants rescued in Spain's Canary Islands after apparently being forced to crouch on the rudder of a fuel tanker during an 11-day voyage from Nigeria should now be returned home under stowaway laws, a police spokesman told Reuters on Tuesday.
In a photo shared by the Spanish Coast Guard on Twitter on Monday, the three stowaways can be seen crouching on the rudder under the hull, just above the Alithini II's waterline.
The 183-meter-long ship, which flies the Maltese flag, arrived in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, after setting out from Lagos in Nigeria on November 17 and sailing along the West African coast, according to Marine Traffic.
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The ship's captain confirmed to the Red Cross that the ship had left Nigeria 11 days earlier.
A spokesman for the Canarian Police said it is the ship operator's job to take care of stowaways, provide them with temporary accommodation and return them to their place of origin as soon as possible.
However, the migrants could potentially remain in Spain if they apply for asylum, Helena Maleno, director of migration NGO Walking Borders, told Reuters.
"On several previous occasions, stowaways with political asylum have been able to stay in Spain," Maleno said.
Alithini II, owned by Gardenia Shiptrade SA, is managed by Athens-based Astra Ship Management, according to the public shipping database Equasis.
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Astra Ship Management did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
The Coast Guard said the migrants were rescued by a Coast Guard vessel around 7pm. Local time (1900 GMT) on Monday.
The stowaways were treated for moderate dehydration and hypothermia, the Canary Islands Emergency Services and Red Cross said. One of the migrants was in a more serious condition and had to be taken to another hospital on the island.
The Spanish-owned Canary Islands are a popular gateway for African migrants trying to reach Europe. The number of migrants arriving illegally by sea in the archipelago fell by 17.6% year-on-year to 14,875 in the first decade of 2022, according to the Interior Ministry.
(Reporting by Charlie Devereux, Inti Landauro and Emma Pinedo; Additional reporting by Jonathan Saul, David Latona and Borja Suarez; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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