Swedish Student’s Plane Protest Stops Deportation Of Asylum-Seeking Afghan Man

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):

Commenters on Twitter had mixed reactions:

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.

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.

She said:

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.

H/T: Twitter, The Guardian