Four Nigerian men have been rescued by Brazilian police after undertaking a dangerous journey to flee their country on a cargo ship crossing the Atlantic Ocean.

The four Nigerians had hidden in a small space above the ship’s rudder and endured a death-defying 14-day trip, covering a distance of 5,600 kilometers (3,500 miles) across the ocean.

According to Reuters, the stowaways ran out of food and drink on their tenth day at sea, and survived another four days by drinking the seawater from the waves crashing beneath them.

After they were rescued by Brazilian authorities, the four men revealed that their ultimate goal was to reach Europe, but to their surprise, they ended up in Brazil, a South American country.

Roman Ebimene Friday, a 35-year-old man from Bayelsa state, had previously attempted to leave Nigeria but was arrested by authorities.

His second migration attempt began on July 23 when a friend rowed him to the stern of the ship docked in Lagos, where he joined three other men waiting for the ship to depart.

Friday said the uncertainty of the situation was terrifying, as the four of them had never met before and feared his new shipmates could toss him into the water at any moment.

Once the journey began, Friday said the four of them maintained absolute silence to avoid detection by the ship’s crew, as they believed being caught would mean certain peril in the open sea.

He said, “Maybe if they catch you they will throw you in the water. So we taught ourselves never to make a noise.”

Spending two weeks within metres of the Atlantic Ocean, where they could see “big fish like whales and sharks” was rugged, so they devised creative ways to secure themselves above the rudder, using a net and ropes to prevent falling into the ocean.

Sleep was rare and risky due to the cramped conditions and the noise of the ship’s engine.

One of the men, Thankgod Opemipo Matthew Yeye, a 38-year-old pastor from Lagos, recounted how his peanut and palm oil farm had been destroyed by floods, leaving his family homeless. He had hoped to reunite with them in Brazil.

Friday and Yeye said the motivation behind their perilous escape was the economic difficulty, soaring inflation, and ongoing violence in Nigeria.

When the four stowaways arrived in Brazil, two of them chose to return to Nigeria voluntarily, while Yeye and Friday applied for asylum in Brazil.

The priest, Paolo Parise, who interviewed the men at the Sao Paulo shelter, expressed that while he had encountered stowaway cases before, none had been as dangerous as this.

He emphasized that their journey was a testament to the extreme lengths people would go to in search of a new beginning, and it highlights the unimaginable and deeply dangerous situations people face in their pursuit of a better life.

It will be recalled that in 2021, officials of the Lagos state anchorage also caught some stowaways – two men and two women – hiding on the rudder of a ship heading for Spain.