More than 100 migrants from Togo, Burkina Faso, Nigeria and Benin are stranded in Cameroon after they were rescued by the central African state’s military from their capsizing vessel in the Atlantic Ocean. The migrants, who are calling on their governments for help, say they do not have food or money.
One-hundred-seventeen men, women and children lie on the bare floor at the government school in Ebodje, a Cameroon village on the west coast of Africa near the Atlantic Ocean.
Christian Djongo, village chief of Ebodje, says officials have been looking after the unexpected visitors for five days.
He says on July 29, his community joined the Cameroon military to save the lives of the migrants from the sea. He says immediately after removing them from their vessel that was almost capsizing, the community gave them clothing, coffee and food. He says townspeople are now hoping for assistance from the government because they no longer have food for the stranded migrants.
They say their vessel, nicknamed Ave Maria, left Ghana for Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, and had on board 65 people from Burkina Faso, 41 from Togo, a man from Nigeria, three people from Benin and seven crew members from Ghana. There were 43 women and 24 children.
The vessel ran out of fuel at sea in Cameroon territorial waters and was rescued after several hours by the Rapid Intervention Battalion of Cameroon’s military and fishermen.
Witnesses said some migrants dove into the sea in an attempt to swim to safety and were rescued by local fishermen.
No deaths were reported but since the ordeal, the vessel’s crew is requesting additional payment from passengers to refuel the boat and most of the migrants say they can’t pay.
Twenty-seven-year-old Burkinabe migrant Ali Rachid says he was struggling to find his way to Spain through Equatorial Guinea.
He says it is easier to travel to Spain through Equatorial Guinea because the central African state enjoys good diplomatic relations with its former colonial master and the two countries have Spanish as their official language. He says from Spain, he has dreams of traveling to any other European country.
Thirty-two-year-old Benin migrant Raoul Amadi says he left Ghana for Gabon, where he was told by a relative who had been there for five months that he could get a job as an electrician. He says after observing the difficult conditions they went through at sea, he now wants to return home.
Amadi says he no longer wants to continue with the vessel and is pleading with his government to help him and his peers to return home.
Leonie Legouda, a resident of Ebodji, says since the migrants arrived in his village, life has become more difficult.
“Their presence here is a nuisance to the whole community. They are harvesting our crops and stealing our fowl and goats. They should leave now,” Legouda said.
Most of the migrants had no travel documents, but were identified through national identity cards. Some of the travelers want to return to their countries of origin, while others want to go to Ghana. Cameroon’s military says it has opened an investigation.