On their tenth day at sea, four Nigerian stowaways found themselves stranded without food or drink on a cargo ship crossing the Atlantic. Their survival instincts kicked in, and they resorted to drinking the seawater crashing beneath them for the next four days. Eventually, they were rescued by Brazilian federal police in the port of Vitoria, located in southeastern Brazil.
This harrowing journey of approximately 5,600 kilometers (3,500 miles) underscores the extreme risks that migrants are willing to take in search of a better life. One of the stowaways, Thankgod Opemipo Matthew Yeye, expressed his relief during an interview at a church shelter in Sao Paulo, stating, “It was a terrible experience for me. On board, it is not easy. I was shaking, so scared. But I’m here.”
However, their relief quickly turned into surprise when they discovered that they had unintentionally landed in Brazil instead of reaching Europe. Two of the men have already been returned to Nigeria, but Yeye and Roman Ebimene Friday have applied for asylum in Brazil. Friday, who had previously attempted to flee Nigeria by ship but was apprehended, explained that economic hardship, political instability, and crime left them with no other choice but to abandon their homeland.
Yeye, a pentecostal minister from Lagos state, revealed that his farm, which relied on peanut and palm oil production, was destroyed by floods, rendering his family homeless. He hopes that his family can join him in Brazil. Friday’s journey began when a fisherman friend rowed him to the Liberian-flagged Ken Wave, where three other men were already waiting for the ship to depart. He feared for his life, as he had never met his shipmates before and worried that they might throw him into the sea.
To avoid detection by the ship’s crew, the stowaways made every effort to remain hidden and silent. The treacherous conditions of spending two weeks near the open ocean were nerve-wracking, and they rigged a net around the rudder to prevent falling overboard, tying themselves to it with a rope. Father Paolo Parise, a priest at the Sao Paulo shelter, highlighted the dangerous and unimaginable lengths that people will go to seek a fresh start.