Luna Reyes, a Spanish Red Cross member, hugs a migrant who arrived swimming to cross the border of Tarajal in Ceuta | Photo: EPA/REDUAN
Luna Reyes, a Spanish Red Cross member, hugs a migrant who arrived swimming to cross the border of Tarajal in Ceuta | Photo: EPA/REDUAN

A photo of Luna Reyes, a Red Cross volunteer in Ceuta has unleashed a campaign of hate on social media against the young woman. In the picture, she is seen hugging a Senegalese migrant in tears right after he had crossed the border from Morocco.

The photo has become a symbolic image of the migrant situation in Ceuta. The picture portrays Red Cross volunteer Luna Reyes hugging a young Senegalese migrant who has just reached a beach on the Spanish enclave last week, alongside thousands of other people after crossing the border with Morocco.

The young man is seen clinging to Reyes while crying desperately in the photo, which was first published on May 20. The image has sparked support as well as backlash on social media, with Spanish media reporting that the 20-year-old woman was forced to deactivate her social media accounts in response.

The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, separated from Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea | Credit: InfoMigrants
The Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, separated from Spain by the Strait of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea | Credit: InfoMigrants

Reyes expressed surprise about the attention that the image attracted as part of an interview with public Spanish television RTVE. Reyes said: "I only hugged him."

A native of the Spanish capital Madrid, volunteer Reyes found herself at the center of the emergency situation in Ceuta last week, where she was completing a traineeship.

Read more: Officer who rescued baby off Ceuta: 'He was cold'

'The most normal' response in the world

In the RTVE interview, Reyes said that giving a hug was the "most normal" thing "in the world," and that the embrace at that moment was the migrant's "lifeline."

Reyes said the young man -- who disappeared shortly after the picture was taken and who has remained unidentified -- had just swum with a friend across the border from Morocco. He collapsed on the shores of Ceuta and appeared to be in poor condition:

"He was desperate, he though that he was dying", said Reyes. Reyes added that she feared that the young man might be one of thousands of migrants who had already been returned to Morocco since the arrival of 8,000 migrant last Monday and Tuesday. At least 6,000 people have since been handed back over to Morocco or have voluntarily returned, according to the Spanish government.

'A symbol of hope and solidarity'

The picture of the Reyes and the Senegalese man went viral. Many people shared it using the hashtag #GraciasLuna in a campaign of solidarity that has also been endorsed by many members of the government.

Deputy Premier Yolanda Diaz described the image as "much more than just a photo. It is a symbol of hope and solidarity," she said.

But with the discovery of a second body of a migrant, who was retrieved near Ceuta's shores a few days ago, that sense of hope might somewhat be dimmed.

Ceuta residents and migrants perform a funeral prayer on a Moroccan teenager at the Muslim cemetery in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Saturday, May 22, 2021 | Photo: AP Photo/Bernat Armangue
Ceuta residents and migrants perform a funeral prayer on a Moroccan teenager at the Muslim cemetery in the Spanish enclave of Ceuta on Saturday, May 22, 2021 | Photo: AP Photo/Bernat Armangue

Hundreds of minors to still be housed

According to reports on the ground in Ceuta, the situation has calmed down at the border after Morocco reinstated proper border controls. The Moroccan government in Rabat has been accepting the organized repatriation of all its citizens since Wednesday night.

Madrid's "main concern" for the time being is finding places to host the 850 minors who have remained in Ceuta since the borders were breached by thousands last week.

 

More articles

Webpack App