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Immigrant Ship Heads for Nigeria

June 23, 2001

LOME, Togo (AP) _ A ship packed with immigrants that has been refused entry at ports along the coast of West Africa for more than three weeks headed for Nigeria on Saturday.

The boat, carrying 186 mostly Liberian immigrants, left Togolese waters after divers there helped free the boat’s propeller from a web of fishing nets that had ensnared it, said the ship’s Swedish captain, Henning Kielberg.

The cargo ship Alnar appeared off Togo on Friday, but Togo _ like Ghana and Benin before it _ refused to let the boat dock.

President Gnassingbe Eyadema instead ordered key supplies _ including 1,320 gallons of drinking water and milk, sugar, rice, bread and cooking oil _ be delivered to the ship’s passengers, who’ve been growing hungrier and sicker by the day.

The Alnar has struggled to dock since it left Monrovia, Liberia, on June 1 with what Kielberg said were 79 children, 63 women and 44 men.

West African nations, stung by recent allegations of child-trafficking and apparently leery of such a large group of immigrants, have refused to allow the boat into their ports.

But Nigerian authorities said last week they’d allow the boat to dock there on humanitarian grounds.

Kielberg said the boat didn’t have enough fuel to make it to Lagos on its own. But the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees would donate the needed fuel when the boat stopped over in Cotonou, Benin, on its way to Nigeria, the agency’s representative in Togo, Anna Agbeviade, said.

The U.N. refugee agency believes at least some of the passengers might be asylum-seekers.

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