A man who appeared to be a migrant who Instagrammed his 'illegal' journey from North Africa to Spain has been revealed to be a beach handball player who was acting as part of a photography exhibition.
Hagi Toure posed in a series of selfies and photos on the Instagram account abdoudouif1993, which appeared to show him hiding in a truck, walking across the desert and rowing terrified on a small boat across the sea.
The Huffington Post UK reported on Sunday on the account and its claims, which were warmly welcomed as showing a 'human face' of the growing migration crisis.
But the account was actually set up by a Spanish advertising agency for a photography exhibition, and Toure - an aspiring handball player who lives in Spain - posed for the photos as an actor.
Tomás Peña, one of the directors of the project, shot all the photos in and around Barcelona with his iPhone in a single day. He spoke to HuffPost UK and explained he wanted to "change perceptions".
"We thought that by profiling a migrant arriving in Spain, that is something that happens every day," he said.
"Instagram has the potential to make people think and have a moment for reflection to think about it, but we didn't want to criticise the system necessarily. This is happening every day and we wanted to show how it would look if you told the story on Instagram.
"I am on Instagram, I post pictures of my friends, my daily life, like everyone does," said Peña, "but if you imagine that this situation on Instagram is that person's life - it really gives you perspective.
Peña said that Toure, who is a legal migrant from Senegal, was "super lovely" and that all three actors in the pictures "understood what we were doing."
"We didn't lie to them, they knew that we were doing this, that is was going to be something quite big, somehow. They were happy with it."
Toure, seen here playing handball in 2011
Peña said none of his team had experienced illegal immigration, and the three actors had come from Senegal "legally to Spain when they were kids more than 10 years ago."
Since the photography stunt gained media attention, Toure has set his own personal Instagram profile to private.
"To be honest, I don't think [Toure] wants his story to be heard," Peña added. "He wants to keep his life, to get some quick cash and to keep doing sport."
The photos are for the annual GETXOPHOTO photography exhibition in September which has "travel" as its theme this year. The project was set up by creative agency and production company Volga and directed by the Barcelona studio Manson.
Peña told HuffPost UK: "To me, and for the actors, this thing that has happened is kind of a science fiction, you know? Because those immigrants that are coming from Africa, one day they will have broadband and do like we did."
He said there needs to be more compassion towards the migrants who are crossing the Mediterranean in huge numbers to reach Europe: "Of course, of course. My personal view is that all the refugees that they are putting in the camps, we should be giving them food and education, then that will make all of us more rich."
One of the photos on the account shows the actors appearing to land safely in Spain after a dangerous sea crossing, where they embrace on the shore. It uses the hashtags #bigday #nopainnogain #lovinglife and #positivity.
Finally the land os oportunities. We tired but happy. Very danger trip. #happy #bigday #nopainnogain #smail #celebration #brothers #instagood i#instalike #instamood #instadaily #lovinglife #alwaysfinddaway #positivity #timetoshine #walkyourtruepath #beyourbestself #unfprgetable #instagramers #photooftheday #photochallenge #beautiful #follow #feelgoodphoto #instalovers #excited
A release from Volga, the production agency behind the stunt, said that photography was becoming indispensable to travel, adding: "If this is true for industrial tourism - the endless search and sharing of 21st century takes on pastoral ideals - it applies equally to the increasing numbers of those who’s journeys are the result of necessity. Migrants and refugees, displaced by dictatorial regimes, the horrors of war and environmental and economic disasters."
In the first post on the project's account, Toure appeared with a smiling woman, writing "Today i start a new dream. Today i start my travel to Europe for a better future for my family. I will be telling all my tryp [sic] here. The good and bad moments. Hope yo [sic] like it."
He later appeared in shots showing him apparently about to ride on a motorbike with a friend, and rowing in water saying he is "Really scared".
Disphotic, a blog run by photographer and London College of Communication lecturer Lewis Bush, wrote that the photographs posed serious concerns about Toure's motivations and "the implications of setting up this account at a time when migration into Europe is such a current, controversial, and tragic topic."
"Does the fact we might sympathise with the motivations behind these photographs make the deception taking place any less problematic? I think not. Because those discovering that the account isn’t genuine may find it contaminates the way they view the topic of migration as a whole, and particularly the way they view those arguing that Europeans need to show greater humanity towards people seeking to travel here. If an account like this is fake, where does that leave other bits of evidence of the hardships and dangers migrants face at home and during their odysseys to Europe?"
In response to criticism of the fabricated account, Peña said: "We wish it would help [with the migrant crisis] We did this for an exhibition that is talking about travel. We tried to touch on something that is happening ever day, for people to think about it.
"We are not here to find solutions - I mean I wish we were. It's using a very down-to-earth language, the language that we all speak, the internet. We are not politicians."
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