By A Correspondent- Four Nigerian men illegally boarded a cargo ship hoping to reach Europe, but were shocked to learn they had landed on the other side of the Atlantic, in Brazil.
They travelled approximately 5,600km (3,500 miles) across the ocean on the rudder – a flat or curved piece of material attached to a boat or ship’s back that helps to steer and navigate it, surviving on minimal food and drink.
After ten days at sea, they ran out of supplies and resorted to drinking seawater to survive for another four days before being rescued by the Brazilian federal police in Vitoria.
Aj Jazeera reports that two of the men were returned to Nigeria upon their request, while the other two applied for asylum in Brazil.
Roman Ebimene Friday, a 35-year-old from Bayelsa state, had attempted to flee Nigeria by ship once before but was arrested by authorities there. He and Thankgod Opemipo Matthew Yeye, a Pentecostal minister from Lagos State, said that economic hardship, political instability, and crime had left them with little option but to abandon their native Nigeria. Yeye’s peanut and palm oil farm had been destroyed by floods, leaving him and his family homeless. A 38-year-old Thankgod Opemipo Matthew Yeye said:
It was a terrible experience for me. On board, it is not easy. I was shaking, so scared. But I’m here.
Friday said during their journey, they played cat and mouse with the ship’s crew to avoid being seen and potentially thrown overboard. They remained silent and tied themselves to a net rigged around the rudder with a rope. The cramped conditions, noise of the engine, and proximity to the ocean made sleep rare and risky.
Father Paolo Parise, a priest at the Sao Paulo shelter, noted that their journey exemplified the lengths people will go to in search of a new start. It also highlighted the inherent dangers that migrants face in their quest for better lives.
The phenomenon of Africans leaving their countries in search of better economic opportunities and political stability is a significant challenge that continues to affect the continent. During their journeys, many migrants face significant dangers and challenges, including the use of dangerous and illegal routes, human trafficking, and abuse and exploitation. Unfortunately, some feel that they have no other choice but to take these risks in order to improve their circumstances.
Africa is a continent with vast natural resources, yet its citizens often find themselves living in abject poverty. The failure to see the benefits of these resources has been attributed to several factors, including corruption, lack of value-addition and beneficiation, exploitation, and maladministration.