Spain’s Ministry of the Interior has agreed to re-examine the cases of all three Nigerian nationals who had arrived in the Canary Islands on top the rudder blade of a cargo ship last week. This allowed them to have the status of asylum seeker until a final decision is issued.
After agreeing to re-assess the asylum applications of two of the three Nigerian migrants, the interior ministry also authorised the case of the the third migrant to be revisited. It said that this procedure would be fast-tracked using emergency procedures.
This means that the third migrant who had arrived alongside the two other migrants as stowaways on the rudder of an oil tanker will also be allowed to remain in Spain while his request for asylum is being processed.
The man had lodged his initial asylum request from hospital while he was recovering from dehydration after the eleven-day voyage. According to the lawyers representing the Caminando Fronteras charity, the migrant was about to be released from hospital.
He will have to appear before the police to be given his temporary documents as an asylum seeker.
Recommendation to apply discretion
Under Spanish law, migrants arriving as stowaway passengers have to file asylum requests as soon as they arrive — otherwise they will be sent back home.
To avoid this fate, all three of the migrants lodged their asylum applications once they reached Spanish soil. However, they all initially received negative responses to their applications.
However, within a matter of hours following this initial rejection, the interior ministry changed its course on two of the three migrants, saying their cases were actually too complicated to issue a flat-out rejection, having consulted with the Spanish Commission for Refugee Aid, CEAR, which represents the legal interests of those two migrants.
Thus, those two migrants were allowed to leave police custody and go to a migrant reception centre, as their legal status changed automatically from being stowaway arrivals to that of asylum seekers. However, this did not apply to the third Nigerian migrant, who was still in hospital at that time.
Then on Wednesday (December 7), the third migrant was also given the same status. This came after the Caminando Fronteras charity produced a recommendation letter written by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, UNHCR, advising Spain to apply the humanitarian exception clause which is specified in Spanish asylum law.
They reportedly cited the vulnerability of the migrant as well as the toll that the risky journey had taken on his mental and physical health.
Furthermore, it was apparently unclear to what extent the three stowaway migrants had been informed on their right to ask for political asylum upon arrival, according to Caminando Fronteras. This may also be taken into consideration while the three cases are being re-examined.
A unique clandestine journey
The three Nigerian men had reportedly climbed on top of the rudder blade of the Alithini II cargo ship on November 17 in the port of Lagos, Nigeria. They told police later that they did not know each other beforehand, nor did they know the exact destination of the ship.
Further details of the clandestine journey emerged later on. The three reportedly hid away in the opening under the stern of the ship where the rudder is inserted into the hull. The whole time they had minimal food and water reserves.
In the last few years, more and more migrants have sought to get to the Canary Islands, which are part of the European Union, from the African continent. However, since 2014, nearly 3,000 migrants have died or have gone missing after attempting to reach the territory, according to the International Organization for Migration, IOM.