Righting Wrongs, Past and Present

Righting Wrongs, Past and Present

Why you should care

Because slavery ain’t over. 

President François Hollande swooped through the Caribbean this week. His itinerary wasn’t about beaches or rum drinks, but about les droits de l’homme (human rights). First stop: Guadeloupe, where Hollande joined in at an inauguration of the world’s largest slave memorial. In Cuba, he met with Raúl and Fidel Castro and called for an end to the U.S. trade embargo. And on Tuesday, Hollande became the first French president to come to Haiti on a formal state visit.

Two hundred years ago, France was knee-deep in the slave trade. Human rights were all the rage at home, but in the Caribbean? Not so much. Indeed, France refused to recognize Haiti as a state until it paid an “indemnity” to compensate planters for the loss of their property, aka their slaves. In 2001, France recognized that all of this — slavery and the slave trade — were crimes against humanity, and yet it has turned mostly a deaf ear to demands for reparations. Nonetheless, Caribbean nations continue to seek financial reparations, not just from France, but also from Britain and the Netherlands. Read more about the global reparations movement here.

Hollande was right, however, to point out that slavery continues and that the trafficking of people on unseaworthy ships continues. Some 170,000 migrants crossed the Mediterranean to Italy in 2014 — 3,500 of whom drowned or froze to death in transit. And in The Human Trafficker, OZY explored just who is profiting from the trade: men like Abu Ahmad, 35, a former doctor from Syria. For $5,000, desperate migrants and refugees can buy a place in an overcrowded and filthy boat that is put on autopilot and steered toward Italy. Now, Ahmad (not his real name) is based in Side, a Turkish resort town, where his trafficking gig earns him up to $1,400 per refugee. Which he uses to “support [his] family in Syria.” Read more here.

Just what will Europe do about the influx of migrants from crisis zones in the Middle East and Africa? A certain brand of xenophobia has taken off, and even become mainstream, across Western Europe. And at least one of its standard-bearers in France is pretty sexy: That’s Julien Rochedy, leader of the youth branch of the Front National. He is single, and his chiseled jaw, sexy stubble and perfectly tailored suits are quite attractive. But what’s truly jaw-dropping is what’s underneath: a right-wing heart harboring anti-immigrant views on par with the tea party. In particular? Rochedy says he worries about a “replacement of the French” by migrants. Read more here.



Square pegs. Round holes.