No food, no water: African migrants recount terrifying Atlantic crossing

Men rescued off Brazil after 35 days at sea tell of harrowing 3,000 -mile journey on which some drank urine to survive

In the working day after the food and water had run out, as the catamaran floated helplessly in the Atlantic with a snapped mast and broken motor, there was nothing left to do but pray, told Muctarr Mansaray, 27.

” I pray every day. I pray a lot at that particular moment. I don’t sleep at night ,” he told.

Mansaray and 24 other African migrants had set out from the African nation of Cape Verde in April, on what they were told by the two Brazilian crewmen would be a comparatively quick and easy voyage to a new country where they hoped to find work.


This weekend, they were rescued by fishermen 80 miles off the coast of Brazil, after an incredible 3,000 -mile journey across the Atlantic.

The humen, from Senegal, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau had been at sea for 35 days- the last few days without food and water.

Details have now begun to emerge of the men’s terrifying and chaotic voyage in a 12 -metre catamaran scarcely big enough for them to squeezing on. When food and water operated out, some even drank sea water and urine.

” After 35 days of journey in these conditions it is really lucky that nobody succumbed ,” told Luis Almeida, head of the federal police’s immigration department in Sao Luis, the capital of Maranhao state.

” There was not a cabin for all of them, so they were exposed to a lot of sun and solar radiation during these 35 days ,” he told. The rescued humen were disorientated, dehydrated and some had problems seeing after so long exposed to second-hand glare of sunshine reflected on the waves.

Almeida said the case was unprecedented: African stowaways have been found on cargo ships in Maranhao ports before, but this was the first time a boatload of migrants had arrived in the nation. The two Brazilians also on the boat were arrested for promoting illegal immigrations.

The journey began in the island nation of Cape Verde, 400 miles west of Senegal.

Mansaray, a Muslim from Freetown in Sierra Leone, had moved there five years ago to study science and technology with hopes of becoming a educator. He analyse for two years but was struggling to pay his university fees and running as a cellphone repairman.

” They called me the cellphone doctor ,” he told the Guardian by phone from Sao Luis.

A friend who is a student in Sao Paulo told him he could study for free in Brazil’s biggest city and would be able to send fund home to his elderly parents and sister in Freetown.” I said, cool, that’s why I got that barge ,” he said.

The small catamaran used for the intersect. Photo: Handout

He said he had been introduced to a Brazilian on the street and then paid $700( PS521) for what he was told would be a 22 -day passage.

He became scared when he saw the size of the vessel he was about to cross the Atlantic on.

” I am the last to arrive, when I enter on the boat, a lot of guys, oh my God, is this going to be safe all of us ?” he told.” How can I do this journey? Because I am already in, I cannot discourage other people, so I find heroism and run .”

‘The motor transgressed, and the sail broke’

Others had paid more on the promise that they would be given food, but within 10 days the food had run out, so the three men survived on two biscuits or a few spoonfuls of food each day. One day, one man caught a fish with a rope.

” We simmered a fish, and everybody eat ,” Mansaray said.

But the mast snapped when one of the boat’s crew was trying to tie it to the other side of the barge, he told, and the motor would not work because the crew had mixed kerosene and diesel. A storm came as a relief because at least there was rainwater to drink.

Elhadji Mountakha Beye, 36, was hit on the head when the mast contravene and has been left with a scar. The mechanic from Dakar in Senegal had previously lived in Cape Verde , and paid EUR1, 000( PS877) for his passage in the hope of finding work in Brazil where he hoped to meet up with a Senegalese friend in Sao Paulo.” There is better work there than in Senegal ,” he said.

Hora 1 (@ hora1)

Barco com imigrantes africanos e resgatado por pescadores na costa brasileira.Vinte e cinco africanos que estavam a deriva em alto mar foram resgatados por pescadores cearenses e levados para o litoral do Maranhao: https :// sgUnMGEnuP #Hora1 4XJCGF8Sqj

May 21, 2018

He described a hellish journey.

” It was tiring, there was no food, the food ran out, the water ran out ,” he said.” Just on that sea. The motor broke, and the sail violated. Now just wait for someone to help us .”

Just as the situation was becoming dire, the men aboard the drifting ship spotted a fishing barge and signalled that they were in distress. The anglers, from nearby Ceara state, towed the catamaran to the nearby port of Sao Jose de Ribamar.

” The next day person would have died ,” Moises dos Santos, one of the fishermen, told reporters when the men landed.” They said they eat two cookies a day. They even drank urine, that’s what they say, they told us. We felt very honoured to save the lives of a lot of people .”

‘ We are not criminals. We are hard-working guys .’ Photograph: Handout

The humen were met by a medical squad from the Maranhao state government’s secretariat of human rights, taken to a health post for checks and then housed in a local gymnasium.

” All of them said life was precarious in their origin countries and they all have relatives or people they know living in Brazil. They were looking for a better life and to work in Brazil ,” said Jonata Galvao, the state’s adjunct secretary for human rights.

Federal police said they were now assessing a” migratory answer” for the men to stay in Brazil.

” We are not criminals. We are hard-working guys. So I believe that the government will help us to do that ,” Mantsaray said.” It is my dreaming, and I believe my dreaming will come true with the help of God, and I can support my family back home .”

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