Two Nigerian stowaways were killed after an Asian-operated vessel abused and dumped them in the open sea with 12 others, according to African reports.
The cargo ship, known as the MV Ophelia Panama, was headed from Nigeria to Japan. The 12 survivors reportedly confessed to illegally boarding the vessel at Delta Port, Warri, on Sept. 7 in pursuit of greener pastures.
The stowaways were reportedly discovered after they ran out of food five days into the voyage. The crew, whom they believed to be Chinese or Japanese, offered to help at first but allegedly began to abuse and torture them later.
“The crew came and rescued them. They and the crew were cool for like two days, and [by] the third day, they started maltreating them up to the time they hit the soil of Liberia,” said Chris Keah, head of the Joint Security Task Force in the Liberian county of Grand Kru, where the survivors were rescued on Sept. 11 and 12.
International maritime convention requires the master of the ship to identify a stowaway and ensure their general health, welfare and safety until they are deported. The master must also inform the ship’s flag state, next port of call and port authorities of embarkation for the stowaway.
At some point, the crew of the Ophelia Panama allegedly spilled hot water or chemicals onto the stowaways. Two of them were then killed and dumped into the open sea, according to reports.
The rest reportedly were either rescued directly from the ship or fled from the vessel, which was just off the coast of Liberia at the time. Six managed to reach the shore, four were rescued directly from the ship and the last two were saved after being tossed overboard.
“The ship was less than a mile from the shore. Six Nigerians swam and came on shore,” Keah said. “Four more persons were rescued from the ship directly, and the last two were thrown into the ocean by the guys.”
“The two that were reported killed, we didn’t see them and we don’t know whether they were killed on Liberian soil or at deep sea,” he added.
The survivors have been turned over to the Liberia Immigration Service for investigation. Officials reportedly assured them of their protection under the law.