Crossing Continents
Crossing Continents
BBC Radio 4
Series focusing on foreign affairs issues
Shipwreck
The migrant shipwreck that rose again… In April, 2015 more than a thousand refugees and migrants drowned when the old fishing boat they were travelling on sank. It was the worst shipwreck in the Mediterranean since World War Two. But the people who died are not forgotten. Not by their families and friends - and not by a professor of forensic pathology at the University of Milan. “There’s a body that needs to be identified, you identify it. This is the first commandment of forensic medicine,” says Dr Cristina Cattaneo. Crossing Continents tells the story of the raising of the fishing boat from the Mediterranean's seabed, and Dr Cattaneo's efforts to begin to identify the people who lost their lives on that moonless night on the edge of Europe. Producer and presenter: Linda Pressly Editor: Bridget Harney
Jan 14
28 min
Libya's Brothers from Hell
Amid the anarchy of post-Revolution Libya, seven ruthless brothers from an obscure background gradually took over their home town near Tripoli. They're accused of murdering entire families to instill fear and to build power and wealth. They created their own militia which threw in its lot, at different times, with various forces in Libya's ongoing conflict. And they grew rich by levying taxes on the human and fuel traffickers crossing their territory. Now, the full horror of their reign of terror is being exposed: since they were driven out in June, more and more mass graves are being discovered. The Libyan authorities - and the International Criminal Court - are investigating what happened. But the four surviving Kani brothers have fled. Will they ever face justice? And what does their story tell us about why the 2011 overthrow of Colonel Gaddafi brought not democracy, but chaos, to Libya? Tim Whewell reports. Editor: Bridget Harney
Jan 7
28 min
Searching for Wisdom in Lagos
A young woman is desperately searching for her brother in Lagos. On the night of 20th October, Nigerian soldiers opened fire at a peaceful demonstration camped at the Lekki tollgate in Lagos. The government say they fired into the air, but witnesses insist that unarmed protesters came under deliberate attack. Amnesty International says that 12 people died. The incident has traumatised a highly popular political reform movement that began as a demand to close down the S.A.R.S., a notoriously corrupt and brutal police squad. In the aftermath, many of the movement’s young supporters are keeping a low profile. Some have had their bank accounts frozen and passports seized. Others have even fled overseas, in fear of their lives. The BBC’s Nigeria correspondent Mayeni Jones has been talking to some of them, including a witness to the Lekki shooting, and Peace, who is tirelessly searching for her brother, Wisdom, who is still missing after attending the demonstration. Mayeni finds a country whose traditionally deferential society and elderly leadership seem suddenly vulnerable; shaken by a perfect storm of youthful idealism, social media activism, and the crippling economic fallout of the Covid pandemic. Producers: Naomi Scherbel-Ball & Michael Gallagher With additional research by Jonelle Awomoyi Editor: Bridget Harney
Dec 31, 2020
28 min
The Mapuche - Fighting for their right to heal
The Mapuche are Chile’s largest indigenous group – a population of more than 2 million people. And, they are fighting for their right to heal. They want Chileans to value their unique approach to healthcare and give them control of land and their own destiny. But, it’s a tough sell when there’s so much distrust and violence between the two communities. Jane Chambers travels to their homeland in the Araucania region in the south of Chile, where she’s given rare access to traditional healers and political leaders. Presenter / producer: Jane Chambers Producer in London: Linda Pressly Editor: Bridget Harney (Image: Machi Juana at her home by her sacred altar. Credit: Jane Chambers/BBC)
Dec 24, 2020
28 min
Darfur: A Precarious Peace
After 17 years of conflict costing 300,000 lives a peace agreement offers new hope to Sudan’s troubled Darfur region. It comes as UNAMID, the United Nations and African Union peacekeeping force, prepares to finally pull out at the end of this month. But with nearly two million displaced people still living in camps and some armed groups yet to sign the agreement, who will protect civilians if the peace fails? For Crossing Continents, Mike Thomson gains rare access to Darfur to hear the stories of those still living with deep uncertainty. Producer, Bob Howard. Editor, Bridget Harney
Dec 17, 2020
27 min
Syria's Soldiers of Fortune
The bitter war between Armenia and Azerbaijan in the Caucasian region of Nagorno Karabakh may have come to an end, but the business of fighting may continue for at least some of its combatants. There’s growing evidence that hundreds of soldiers in this war were mercenaries recruited from mostly rebel-held regions in northern Syria - even though that's strongly denied by Azerbaijan. In this week’s Crossing Continents Ed Butler hears testimony from a number of young Syrians, who say they fought in a war which in most cases they didn't realise they were signing up for. Some speak of shame at having to work this way – a symptom of the increasing economic desperation that's affecting the embattled regions of northern Syria where they live. Produced and presented by Ed Butler Editor, Bridget Harney
Dec 10, 2020
28 min
Belarusian Police – Behind the Balaclavas
Minsk, early December. A wall of masked men in black body armour, beating their truncheons on steel shields. In front of them stand women bundled in winter coats and teenagers wrapped in red and white flags. They’re singing a protest song once heard in the revolutionary shipyards of Gdansk a generation before - an anthem for democracy and change. For more than one hundred days these versions of Belarus have advanced and retreated - and now they seem locked in impasse. Despite sanctions, despite disapproval so loud that even foreign diplomats are demonstrating - the government of Alexander Lukashenko stands firm. For Crossing Continents Lucy Ash explores the world of the security forces that keep Lukashenko in power, peeling back the ubiquitous balaclavas to find the men and women beneath. Producer, Monica Whitlock Editor, Bridget Harney
Dec 3, 2020
28 min
Sicily's Prisoner Fishermen
18 fishermen from Sicily are in jail in Benghazi, accused of fishing in Libya’s waters. And in this part of the Mediterranean rich in the highly-prized and lucrative red prawn, these kinds of arrests are frequent. Usually the Libyans release the men after negotiations. This time it’s different. Gen Khalifa Haftar – the warlord with authority over the east of Libya – is demanding a prisoner swap: the freeing of 4 Libyans in jail in Sicily convicted of human trafficking and implicated in the deaths of 49 migrants, in return for the fishermen. For Crossing Continents, Linda Pressly explores a little-known conflict in the Mediterranean - the so-called War of the Red Prawn, and its fall-out.
Nov 26, 2020
28 min
Martinique: The Poisoning of Paradise
“First we were enslaved. Then we were poisoned.” That’s how many on Martinique see the history of their French Caribbean island that, to tourists, means sun, rum, and palm-fringed beaches. Slavery was abolished in 1848. But today the islanders are victims again – of a toxic pesticide called chlordecone that’s poisoned the soil and water and been linked by scientists to unusually high rates of prostate cancer. For more than 10 years chlordecone was authorised for use in banana plantations – though its harmful effects were already known. Now, more than 90% of Martinicans have traces of it in their blood. The pollution means many can't grow vegetables in their gardens - and fish caught close to the shore are too dangerous to eat. French President Emmanuel Macron has called it an ‘environmental scandal’ and said the state ‘must take responsibility’. But some activists on the island want to raise wider questions about why the pesticide was used for so long – and on an island divided between a black majority and a small white minority, it’s lost on no-one that the banana farmers who used the toxic chemical and still enjoy considerable economic power are, in many cases, descendants of the slave owners who once ran Martinique. Reporting from the island for Crossing Continents, Tim Whewell asks how much has changed there. Is Martinique really an equal part of France? And is there equality between descendants of slaves and the descendants of their masters, even now? Produced and presented by Tim Whewell Editor, Bridget Harney
Nov 19, 2020
28 min
Poland's Gay Pride and Prejudice
A number of small towns in Poland have been campaigning against what they call 'homosexual ideology'. Local authorities in the provinces have passed resolutions against perceived threats such as sex education and gay rights. LGBT activists complain that they are stoking homophobia and effectively declaring ‘gay-free zones’. Both sides argue that they are protecting the universal values of free speech and justice. But the row has attracted international condemnation. The European Union has withheld funds to six of the towns involved, and some of their twinning partners in Europe have broken off ties. Meanwhile, politicians within Poland’s conservative ruling coalition stand accused of exploiting the divisions to further a reactionary social agenda. Lucy Ash reports. Mike Gallagher producing.
Sep 18, 2020
28 min
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