Updated: May 24, 2021 10:56:15 am
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.
Emotiva imagen desde el drama de Ceuta. Una trabajadora de la Cruz Roja se abraza a un exhausto inmigrante pic.twitter.com/aH8JrKYush
— EL MUNDO (@elmundoes) May 18, 2021
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.
No quiero cerrar el día sin compartir la emoción y el orgullo que dejan las impactantes imágenes de calor humano, empatía y solidaridad que no debemos perder#GraciasLuna por representar los mejores valores de nuestra sociedad@guardiacivil @EjercitoTierra @CruzRojaEsp @policia pic.twitter.com/N64TkXkObg
— Nadia Calviño (@NadiaCalvino) May 19, 2021
No vamos a permitir que gane el odio. Quienes hemos visto en este abrazo un símbolo de lo mejor que tenemos en nuestro país somos más. #GraciasLuna, tu empatía es motivo de orgullo. 😍💜https://t.co/VpfdZajgTw
— Rita Maestre 🌾 (@Rita_Maestre) May 19, 2021
Thank you Luna: you showed Humanity in action, you showed what our #RedCross #RedCrescent teams are doing everywhere. All our @ifrc solidarity with you Luna: your experience also underlines why working on dialogue & integration remains important #GraciasLuna
— Francesco Rocca (@Francescorocca) May 20, 2021
Luna represents our very best.
I couldn’t be more proud of her and the millions of Red Cross and Red Crescent volunteers.#GraciasLuna, for shining a light. Gracias Luna, for showing the world what humanity looks like. https://t.co/hsAJM23G0U
— Jagan Chapagain (@jagan_chapagain) May 20, 2021
This girl represents me, represents my compassion and my empathy. #GraciasLuna for your humanity, thank you for not seeing an “illegal”, Thank you for hugging a human being! #GraciasLuna pic.twitter.com/mbpXjWKbku
— Carolina Largo (@LargoCaro) May 20, 2021
Every day brings an opportunity to choose between turning away from our fellow humans – or reaching out, recognising the struggle of others & acting with kindness & love.
— Choose Love (@chooselove) May 21, 2021
— Superelectric (@superelectricUK) May 20, 2021
— Frenchie 🇨🇵 🇪🇺 (@Sassy_Frenchie) May 22, 2021
— Zahirali Namavati (@Zahir786543) May 22, 2021
— Kaur P (@KaurP47937287) May 22, 2021
— The Punisher (@Punishman666) May 22, 2021
— Dimitra Binos♡ (@binosdimitra) May 22, 2021
— Inês Simão (@_InesSimao_) May 22, 2021
All it takes is a little compassion. Thank you for being you. We need more like you.
— Neetu Wadia (@WadiaNeetu) May 22, 2021
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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