Woman volunteer in Spain abused online for hugging exhausted migrant

By Graham Keeley
Photograph: Reuters

Video of a Red Cross volunteer embracing a sobbing, exhausted migrant who swam from Morocco to Spain’s North African enclave Ceuta touched many.

However, two days after it went viral on social media, Luna Reyes, the Red Cross worker, has closed her Twitter account after she was subjected to xenophobic and sexist abuse for hugging the man, thought to be Senegalese.

The video emerged after about 8,000 Moroccans, including small children and entire families, poured through security fences at the border with Ceuta on Monday.

“I don’t believe in any God, but I am sure that if I lived through the situations these people have experienced, I would,” tweeted Ms Reyes.

However, some Twitter users were less sympathetic.

Some suggested the man could not have been exhausted after swimming such a short distance from a beach in Morocco to Ceuta.

Cristina Seguí, a far-right commentator, accused the migrant of sexually abusing the female volunteer. Others even claimed Ms Reyes was posing for the cameras of waiting media.

However, many others rallied to defend her actions.

Ruben Cano, of the International Federation of the Red Cross, tweeted: “Emotive video of a migrant collapsing emotionally after crossing from Morocco to Ceuta and the Spanish Red Cross volunteer trying to support him.”

The images appeared across Spanish newspapers, television and radio.

RTVE, the state broadcaster, played the song Love is On My Side, the Portuguese Eurovision entry, when running a report about the incursion.

More than 8,000 migrants, many of them unaccompanied minors, scrambled, swam or waded across the border into Spain in search of a better life in Europe.

Spain has condemned Morocco for deliberately opening border gates to allow migrants through.

Many Moroccan children were reportedly told they could go and see Cristiano Ronaldo play in a football match in Ceuta or were on a day out from school.

Most have been straight back but about 1,500 minors cannot be returned under Spanish law.