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Red Cross Volunteer Who Hugged a Refugee Becomes Internet Target

red cross hug
Luna Reges hugging the unknown Senegalese refugee. Credit: Twitter/@inesreygracia

A Spanish Red Cross volunteer who gave an exhausted Senegalese refugee a hug off the coast of Ceuta, Spain went viral and became the target of online far-right hate campaign earlier in the week.

Luna Reges, a 20-year-old student who volunteers with the Red Cross as part of her studies, became the target of online vitriol.

The viral “Red Cross hug”

More than 8,000 people have flooded into Spain’s northern African territory Ceuta over the past few days. This sudden influx of refugees has overwhelmed Spanish authorities and volunteers.

Most individuals swim or come in to the shore on floating inflatable rafts, and so it is to be expected that when they arrive they are exhausted. Reyes saw the exhaustion in the face of the Senegalese man and decided to help him as best she could. When she was questioned on the incident, she downplayed her gesture, calling it “the most normal thing in the world.”

The Red Cross volunteer gave the man a hug and water, as it was clear he could barely move after his long journey to Spain.

“He was crying, I held out my hand and he hugged me,” she said. “He clung to me. That embrace was his lifeline.”

It is unclear whether the man in the images is one of the 5,600 people that has been sent back to Morocco, as he has not been spotted by Reyes since.

Online hatred

Hours after the footage went viral, Reyes became the victim of extreme online abuse. She had to privatize all her social media accounts as they were simply fodder for the far-right comments about her.

“They saw that my boyfriend was black, they wouldn’t stop insulting me and saying horrible, racist things to me,” said Reyes of the situation. Online trolls were using her personal information to personalise their attacks on her.

However, a huge show of solidarity for Reyes began when people saw how she was being treated online. The image of the Red Cross volunteer giving an unknown man a hug seemed to remind people of their shared humanity and caused people to become very emotional.

The hashtag #GraciasLuna began trending in Spain as people began to make their support for Reyes known. Praising her kind actions and Reyes herself, the image continued to be circulated not only in Spain but also beyond.

Influential Spaniards also sent her messages of support to help drown out the personal attacks she was facing.

“#Gracias Luna for representing the best values of our society,” said Spain’s economy minister, Nadia Calviño. “Much more than a photo. A symbol of hope and solidarity,” remarked Spain’s labour minister, Yolanda Díaz.

A video of the entire interaction between the Red Cross volunteer and the exhausted Senegalese man is shown below.

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