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Spanish Red Cross worker faces racist backlash for hugging African migrant

Spanish Red Cross worker faces racist backlash for hugging African migrant

The unidentified man was but one of an estimated 8,000 migrants from Morocco who swam and paddled across to the Spanish enclave of Ceuta.(AP: Bernat Armangue)

A Red Cross's photo from Ceuta depicting one of its volunteers hugging an exhausted Senegalese migrant has sparked controversy online after the volunteer had to face a barrage of racist remarks from Spain's far-right Vox party.

The volunteer, Luna Reyes, had to set her Twitter account to private after racist commentators began pulling up details of her personal life. Reyes had been stationed in the Spanish North-African enclave of Ceuta, where an influx of migrants from Morocco and other countries has been steadily pouring in for the last 36 hours.

"They saw that my boyfriend was Black, they wouldn't stop insulting me and saying horrible, racist things to me," the 20-year-old, who has been volunteering with the Red Cross since March as part of her studies, told the Spanish television channel RTVE.

As news of the abuse spread, many other Twitter users began fighting back with the hashtag "Graçias Luna".

"We will not allow hatred to win," Rita Maestre, a councillor for the city of Madrid, said on Twitter. "Those of us who see this embrace as a symbol of the best of our country outnumber the others."

The secretary-general of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Jagan Chapagain, also weighed in. "Luna represents our very best," he wrote. "#Gracias Luna, for shining a light. Gracias Luna for showing the world what humanity looks like."

Spain's labour minister and other Spanish TV personalities, artists and actors also raised their voices against online abuse.

Reyes however, downplayed her role in the event, stating that hugging someone was "the most normal thing in the world". She hadn't caught the man's name but had seen he was battling exhaustion and had given him water.

"He was crying, I held out my hand and he hugged me," she said. "He clung to me. That embrace was his lifeline." Days after he arrived in Ceuta she hadn't seen him again.

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TAGS:Red crossOnline abuseBlack racism
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