Shortly after midnight on June 27, 35-year-old Roman Epimeni stepped at the helm of a cargo ship in the Nigerian capital, Lagos.
Earlier that day, he had seen the freighter in port, which he hoped would take him to Europe. At the helm he finds three other men who had the same idea, and are now hiding under cover of darkness.
It was the beginning of an unexpected journey that almost cost them their entire lives.
“There are no jobs”
Roman Friday had spent three years on the streets of Nigeria when he left. He says he has lost hope.
In Nigeria there are no jobs, no money, and no opportunity for me to get food for my younger brother and mother. I am first born and my father died twenty years ago, so I have to take care of my family, but I can’t, He tells the BBC.
One of the other men at the helm was 38-year-old father of two Thankgood Obimbo Matthew Yee. All was lost when peanut and palm oil plantations in Nigeria were washed away by floods.
Sharks and whales
Last year, three other men made a similar journey at the helm of a ship. Then they ended up in the Spanish Canary Islands.
But it turns out that this ship has a different destination – much further -.
The guys tried to hold on to the rudder, which was constantly moving. They hung sleeping nets and tied themselves with ropes. But the fear of falling into the water was great, and the sleep was scanty. They saw sharks and whales in the water.
– If the net breaks, you fall straight into the water and disappear. And you really went. There is no chance of rescue at sea when no one knows you are missing, says Roman Friday.
We hope to stay
Ten days later, they ran out of food and water. The men drank the salt water and got sick from it.
After 14 days, Friday finally made landfall, and the men were greeted by Brazilian police. A policeman grabbed a water bottle.
– He said you’re in Brazil.
The stowaways traveled 5,600 km across the entire Atlantic Ocean.
Two of the men returned to Nigeria. But Roman Friday and Thankgod Yeye – both of whom have already set their sights on Europe – are now applying for asylum in Brazil instead.
– It’s a new beginning, says Roman Ye.
“Unapologetic writer. Bacon enthusiast. Introvert. Evil troublemaker. Friend of animals everywhere.”