The protagonist of the symbolic image of the hug between a Red Cross volunteer and a migrant on Tarajal beach (Ceuta), taken last Tuesday, is called Abdou and he is 27 years old. The young Senegalese, who after stepping on Spanish soil is back in Morocco, has assured that he fell ill due to the harsh conditions of the trip in an interview on RTVE this Monday from Casablanca. From there, he thanked volunteer Luna Reyes, 20, for her support through a video call. “I can never forget his gesture,” he recalled with emotion. Abdou has assured that he would like to thank her in person for her help and has condemned the attacks that the volunteer has received for her gesture through social networks when the image of the hug went viral. “I don’t understand why they attacked Luna. She just did her job. It consoled me, it comforted me, it was a human gesture ”, he said.
The young man has said that he has been living in Morocco in poor conditions for four years and that it was not the first time that he had tried to cross the border together with his brother. With him he headed from Tangier to Fnideq (the old Castillejos) as soon as he learned that the Moroccan Government had relaxed surveillance on the border with Ceuta, in a journey of many hours. “We were walking from seven in the afternoon until six in the morning,” he said. The last part of the route, just before crossing the border, was done by swimming for 20 minutes to avoid the breakwater of the Tarajal beach. Then he arrived exhausted on the beach where the iconic hug took place and burst into tears when he saw his unconscious brother. To this day, she still doesn’t know anything about him.
Abdou and his brother lived in Senegal with their grandmother, after losing their parents, and decided to emigrate to Morocco four years ago due to financial difficulties that he could not solve with his salary as a bricklayer. However, his ultimate goal was to one day reach Spain where he hoped to start “a new life, a dignified life.” In addition, as he has told in the interview with RTVE, he dreams of seeing his team, Barça, play. He has also assured that he was not afraid of dying during his journey and that he fell ill due to the extreme conditions of the trip. He still coughs often and is tired.
The young man was one of the more than 8,000 migrants who crossed the border from Morocco to Ceuta between last Monday and Wednesday. Never before had such a high number of immigrants entered irregularly in such a short time and the Moroccan gendarmerie showed “unusual passivity”, according to sources from the Spanish security forces. The trigger for this migration crisis was the Moroccan response to the reception in Spain of the leader of the Polisario Front, Brahim Gali, 71, who was admitted last April to the hospital in Logroño suffering from coronavirus. A gesture that the Moroccan authorities did not like, to whom the United States recognized sovereignty over Western Sahara last December. Some 7,500 of the 8,000 migrants have already been returned to Morocco. Despite criticism from various NGOs for an alleged return of vulnerable people, the Government has assured that it is not a question of returns in hot air but rather a “rejection at the border.”
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.