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Monday, June 14, 2021

#GraciasLuna: Spanish aid volunteer abused online for hugging migrant, netizens fight back by thanking her

Spanish Red Cross volunteer Luna Reyes has faced racist online abuse for hugging a distressed black migrant who had crossed to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.

By: Trends Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: May 24, 2021 10:56:15 am
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As hundreds of migrants were seen rushing to Spanish’s coast this week, a photograph in which a Red Cross volunteer is tenderly hugging and consoling a Senegalese man has captured the raw humanity of the moment. Although the photo has moved many online, it also invited a torrent of xenophobic and sexist abuses for the Spanish volunteer, Luna Rayes, from far-right supporters.

Among the many photographs about the episode on the Tarajal beach and the political tension between Spain and Morocco, it was the image of Reyes embracing the migrant who cried inconsolably after reaching the Ceutí coast that put a face to all those extending their support to the vulnerable.

Hours after the photo went viral, however, Reyes had to set her social media accounts to private over a barrage of hateful remarks.

“The girl was trying at all costs to calm the man and told him not to worry, that everything would be fine, that her friend was fine (…) It is true that sometimes, what he talks more, is a hug,” Bernat Armangwe, photojournalist at Associated Press, who witnessed the scene was quoted by The Informant.

The video of the aid worker comforting the migrant, giving him water upon reaching the shore also went viral. The video posted by El Mundo got over 2.5 million views on Twitter alone and was shared widely across other platforms as well.

According to a Guardian report she was targeted by a torrent of abuse from supporters of Spain’s far-right Vox party and others incensed by the unprecedented arrival of 8,000 migrants in Ceuta.

Reacting to all the criticism and online trolling, the aid worker described her action of hugging someone in need as “the most normal thing in the world”.

“They saw that my boyfriend was Black, they wouldn’t stop insulting me and saying horrible, racist things to me,” the 20-year-old, told the Spanish television channel RTVE.

Now as the image and video are going viral, netizens across the globe are showering love and support to the aid worker. Messages hailing the hug soon began pouring in, eclipsing insults and hashtag #GraciasLuna started to trend online.

“#GraciasLuna for representing the best values of our society,” responded Spanish Economy Minister Nadia Calviño, while another minister described the photo as a “symbol of hope and solidarity”. “Shame on those who attacked a dedicated woman helping a fellow human being in the most difficult of times,” wrote another Twitter user reacting to the photo.

However, not everything was positive around the shores to greet the migrants. Around two-thirds of the migrants who reached Ceuta have now been returned to Morocco, according to Spanish authorities. The wave of crossings earlier this week came after Morocco appeared to loosen its border restrictions, BBC News reported.

“Some have suggested the decision was in response to Spain allowing the head of the Polisario Front – a group seeking independence from Morocco in the disputed Western Sahara – to enter the country for medical treatment in April,” the report added.

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