Longform’s Picks of the Week

The best stories from around the world.

Some of the 340 illegal migrants who were rescued by the Libyan navy off the coast of the western town of Sabratha when their boat began to take on water, sit at a shelter on May 12, 2014 in the coastal town of Zawiya, west of Tripoli. The rescue came on the same day Italy's navy said at least 14 migrants had died when their boat sank between Libya and Italy, the latest in a string of shipwreck tragedies to hit the Mediterranean. Libya has long been a springboard for Africans seeking a better life in Europe, and the number of illegal departures from its shores is rising. AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD TURKIA (Photo credit should read MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images)

Every weekend, Longform highlights its favorite international articles of the week. For daily picks of new and classic nonfiction, check out Longform or follow @longform on Twitter. Have an iPad? Download Longform’s new app and read all of the latest in-depth stories from dozens of magazines, including Foreign Policy.

U.S. Agents Take Undocumented Immigrants Into Custody Near Tex-Mex Border

“Where Are the Children?” by Sarah Stillman, the New Yorker.

For extortionists, undocumented migrants have become a big business.

“Shortly before Alfredo Godoy received the phone call about his sons, two men in Trenton faced trial for kidnapping a fifteen-year-old girl in Texas while she made her way from Guatemala to New Jersey, where her mother lived. The mother told police that the kidnappers had starved and abused her. ‘They caused so much pain for my daughter that she does not live a normal life,’ she wrote to the judge. The girl would not be able to testify, ‘due to fear that they will see us, follow us, and do us harm.’

Fear of the police can loom as large as fear of captors, particularly in parts of the country where law enforcement is believed to detain undocumented people who come forward to report a crime. One person who did contact the police was Sonia Avila, a woman living in Texas whose teen-age son, Franklin, reached Arizona from Honduras in 2011, only to be abducted by men posing as good Samaritans and held captive in a stash-house bedroom. Franklin’s kidnappers phoned Avila, demanding fifteen hundred dollars. Otherwise, they told her, they would chop off Franklin’s ears, or kill him.”


“Libya’s People Smugglers: Inside the Trade That Sells Refugees Hopes of a Better Life” by Patrick Kingsley, the Guardian.

Unfazed by EU threats of air strikes, smugglers tell Patrick Kingsley of their shady profits, refugees’ dangerous treks across the Sahara, how migrants often steer the boats – and even how Europe could put them out of business.

“To get to the smugglers, migrants have no single set method. In fact, there are an infinite number of ways – each a modern-day odyssey that may zigzag across several countries and thousands of miles until it brings the refugee to the Libyan coast. ‘Think of Libya as having two seas,’ says Samer Haddadin, the head of the UN’s refugee agency in Tripoli. ‘There is the Mediterranean. But in the south of Libya is the sea of the Sahara. There are people coming from the south, from Niger or Sudan – and that trip is also very risky.’

Syrians, who formed the largest group of migrants crossing the Mediterranean last year, might have fled south through Jordan, Egypt, and then Sudan – before looping back upwards. Eritreans, who formed the second largest group, also make the dangerous trip through Sudan, where they are often at risk of kidnap. West Africans – among them Nigerians, Ghanaians and Senegalese – might come through Niger and Mali, sometimes passing through the hands of several smugglers.”

The monument to the victims of El Mozote

“The Diplomat Who Wouldn’t Lie” by Raymond Bonner, Politico Magazine.

Robert White was the rare official who chose to lose his job to keep his integrity.

“When he arrived in El Salvador, White faced a constant stream of atrocities. ‘Ten bullet-ridden bodies of people who have ‘disappeared’ are found daily on city streets or provincial highways, while the armed forces are increasingly attacking protest groups they describe as ‘subversive,'” the New York Times’ Alan Riding wrote in March 1980. A 27-year-old leftist politician and his 23-year-old Danish wife were picked up the National Police; their tortured bodies were later found by the roadside 40 miles from the capital. When workers went on strike at an American-owned electronics plant, security forces stormed the building, took three workers to a separate room, and shot them in the head. Soldiers killed at least 300 civilians, many women and children, as they were trying to cross the Rio Sumpul into the safety of Honduras. ‘There were so many vultures picking at the bodies in the water that it looked like a black carpet,’ a priest said.”


“Putin’s Action Hero: How Steven Seagal Became the Kremlin’s Unlikeliest Envoy” by Max Seddon and Rosie Gray, Buzzfeed.

The Russian president stunned Barack Obama when he proposed Steven Seagal as an intermediary between Washington and Moscow.

“Seagal, the martial artist turned washed-up action hero, was just the man to pull U.S.–Russia relations back from the brink, Putin said, according to four current and former U.S. officials. An American patriot through and through, Seagal truly knew Russia too: He was in touch with both his Russian roots — his grandmother was from Vladivostok — and with senior figures in the Russian political and security apparatus. Seagal and Putin had met in Moscow a few months earlier; the two men enjoyed a lunch at Novo-Ogarevo, then visited a martial arts complex. Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, told reporters that the two men were longtime friends. That all made Seagal the ideal poster child for friendship between their nations, Putin told Obama, according to the U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about diplomatic matters.”

World Leaders Meet For G8 Summit AT Lough Erne

“The Fight Over Canada’s Patriot Act” by Justin Ling, Foreign Policy.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government has introduced an ambitious and unpopular intelligence reform agenda. Can anyone stop it?

“Under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Canada’s constitution, citizens have the right to liberty, the right to be free from arbitrary detention, and the right to be protected from unreasonable search and seizure. Canadian courts tend to construe these rights broadly, and the ability of law enforcement to obtain search or arrest warrants is narrow. C-51, however, contains a provision reading that CSIS is allowed to employ ‘measures [that] will contravene a right or freedom guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or will be contrary to other Canadian law’ if it has authorization from a judge. CSIS doesn’t need a warrant in cases where it does not think it will be breaking the law or infringing on a citizen’s liberties. The only limits on how that could be applied are laid out in the bill: CSIS cannot pervert the course of justice, and the agency cannot maim, rape, or kill. Everything else is fair game.”

MAHMUD TURKIA/AFP/Getty Images; Jose CABEZAS/AFP/Getty Images; ALEXEI NIKOLSKY/AFP/Getty Images; Ben Stansall – WPA Pool /Getty Images

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