Migrant’s Perilous Journey on Instagram Turns Out to Be an Elaborate Ad

Screen Shot 2015-08-04 at 2.24.31 PM copy

Abdou was a young man from North Africa with a dream; he set out to make his way to Europe in order to create a better future for both himself and his family. Abdou documented his migration from Senegal to Spain on Instagram, showcasing the perils of such travel and his determination for a better life.

After two weeks of travels, finally making it to Spain, and seeing his photos make headlines online, the truth about Abdou emerged: he never existed. It was all part of an elaborate ad campaign.


The Huffington Post UK originally picked up on the story earlier this July from Disphotic and shared it as an inspirational article showcasing Abdou’s hope and courage for a new life. The story racked up over 12,000 Likes on Facebook.


In a bizarre turn of events, the Huffington Post has since reported that Abdou is not the man we thought he was on Instagram. Abdou is, in fact, Spanish handball player Hagi Toure, and his story was simply acting done as part of a photography exhibition.

Abdou's fictional journey.
Abdou’s fictional journey.

“Instagram has the potential to make think and have a moment for reflection to think about it, but we didn’t want to criticize the system necessarily,” project director Tomás Peña tells the Huffington Post. “This is happening every day and we wanted to show how it would look if you told the story on Instagram.”

The journey itself began with Abdou professing how we would miss his family during the journey. He prepared by getting himself a new haircut, setting up his moped, and enjoying a last meal from his mother whom he said was the travel was aimed at helping because she was “too old to work.”

#penthouse #family #weekend #happyfamily #bestdayever #love #willmissyou #daydreamers #african #senegal #dakar

A photo posted by Abdou Diouf (@abdoudiouf1993) on

Ready for everything. Prepared for the new experiences. #newlook #swag#haitdos#beautifull#mua#hairstylist# A photo posted by Abdou Diouf (@abdoudiouf1993) on


The actual venture began when Abdou began walking. He claimed he had been walking for two days and the “guide says we can’t stop or we will lose two thousand euros I pay for the boat to cross.” Abdou documents the lack of food and heat during his travel. The migrant even showed himself hidden in the back of a truck attempting to cross the border. He said that there was “no air” and his “legs hurt.”



Continuing onwards, Abdou and his group found the only way to cross the waters were to use an inflatable lifeboat. Subsequent photos showed the group arriving safely on the shores of Spain only to be captured by police.


First step in spain. A big step for my future. #spain #beach #running #runtoinspire #runforfuture

A photo posted by Abdou Diouf (@abdoudiouf1993) on


Abdou’s last post finally exposed the campaign saying that “the experience was based on the real experience of thousands of people that every year risk their lives of a better future” and that they wanted to “use social networks as a place to share tryp [sic] images and experiences.” He ends by saying that those who are interested can see “this and other proposals about travel in the International Getxophoto festival.”


Creative agency and production company Volga helped created the project, which will be displayed at the GETXOPHOTO photography exhibition this September, which highlights “travel” as this year’s theme.

Peña is aware that many individuals have been upset by the experiment, saying that “we wish it would help. We did this for an exhibition that is talking about travel. We tried to touch on something that is happening every day, for people to think about.”

Handball player Toure has yet to speak out on the campaign and his personal Instagram account is currently set to private.