A 21-year-old student activist prevented an asylum seeker’s deportation from Sweden to Afghanistan on Monday when she refused to take her seat on a plane at Gothenburg airport in Sweden.
Elin Ersson, a social work student at Gothenburg University, purchased a ticket for the flight to Turkey when she and other activists found out that a man was being deported on it. As things turned out, that man was not on the flight—but another deportee was, and that’s who Ersson made her stand for.
Ersson began live-streaming her protest as soon as she boarded the flight. In the video, which has gone viral, she refuses to take her seat, explaining that a plane cannot take off until all passengers are seated. Her demand: that the 52-year-old Afghan asylum seeker be removed from the flight, essentially preventing (or at least delaying) his deportation.
In the video, she explains her stance:
…a person is going to get deported to Afghanistan where there’s war and he’s going to get killed, and I’m not going to sit down until this person is off the plane…
Though some workers and passengers were confrontational with her—at one point someone took away her phone, but a flight attendant gave it back to her—the peaceful protest was ultimately successful, resulting in applause from others on board.
Here is a clip from the video (a longer version can be seen here):
— The Guardian (@guardian) July 25, 2018
Commenters on Twitter had mixed reactions:
And yet here I am celebrating it, look at me go.
In fact I will bake a cake in celebration. Watch this space
— Linda Bakewell (@lb_bluebird13) July 25, 2018
“How about peaceful protest?” Was she aggressive, vulgar, obstreperous, violent, or abrasive? Or, was her tone and actions peaceful? On the other hand, I agree w/you that using the power of voting and petitioning the govt CAN bring about change.
— Jessica B #Resistance (@Kno_ur_purpose) July 25, 2018
Girl it's a protest not a hearing. Every time a protest works in America we're not “singlehandedly making decisions for a democratic nation.”
— Soft Peets @ Megaplex (@TheLionThing) July 25, 2018
it's reported that he was a failed asylum seeker. i have not seen any reports that he was a criminal.
— Chris Corney (@ChrisCorney1) July 25, 2018
In an interview with The Guardian, Ersson said:
I hope that people start questioning how their country treats refugees. We need to start seeing the people whose lives our immigration [policies] are destroying.
That is one brave woman!!!!!
— Twinks65 (@Twinks658) July 25, 2018
ok, genius, working on the assumption that you're not a bot, if this person did that why would they deport him? why not convict and imprison him? is it because you're just making that up?
— Article19 (@Article19) July 25, 2018
Whenever there’s a story about a person standing up against injustice, the comments are so illuminating. There’s always 2 types of people: those why applaud the person because she’s standing up to oppression and those who condemn the person because she’s not following the rules.
— Alison Jean (@Jalison100) July 25, 2018
She doesn't. She didn't break any laws, and left the plane and airport unescorted.
— Houman Sadri #FBPE (@houmansadri) July 25, 2018
A spokesperson for the police in Sweden’s west region told The Guardian that protests such as Ersson’s only delay the deportation:
You do it once or twice, and if it doesn’t work we rent a private plane to send them back to Afghanistan, or wherever.
Ersson is not naive and thinks the man’s deportation was probably already re-routed.
This is how deportations in Sweden work. The people involved know nothing and they are not allowed to reach out to their lawyers or family. My ultimate goal is to end deportations to Afghanistan.
She is amazing, the world needs more people like her. Makes you proud to be a human being #WonderWoman
— Andy Nally (@agsnally) July 25, 2018