In Depth

Swedish plane protest prevents Afghan deportation

Live stream of Elin Ersson's dramatic protest shows how she stands her ground against fellow passengers

elin_errson.jpg

A Swedish student activist managed to prevent the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker from Gothenburg airport by refusing to sit down until the man was removed from the flight.

Elin Ersson started live-streaming her protest on Facebook after flight attendants demanded she sit down for departure and tried to take away her phone.

Facing “both sympathy and hostility from passengers”, says The Guardian, Ersson struggled to keep her composure. Shouts of “sit down, we want to go” can be heard and a person believed to be a flight attendant makes a first attempt to snatch away her phone.

“I don’t want a man’s life to be taken away just because you don’t want to miss your flight,” she says. “I am not going to sit down until the person is off the plane.”

As the 14-minute long video continues, Ersson gradually begins to win support. “In emotional scenes at the end of the live-stream the plane erupts in applause as the Afghan man, three security personnel and finally Ersson herself are disembarked,” reports The Independent.

The video had begun with Ersson walking down the aisle of the plane and urging the pilot to exercise his right to refuse to take off while a deportee is on board.

“There is a person getting deported to Afghanistan and the people working here are trying to take my phone,” she says in the video, which has been seen more than two million times. “If he is deported to Afghanistan, he probably dies. He will most likely get killed… I’m doing what I can do to save a person’s life.

“As long as a person is standing up the pilot cannot take off. All I want to do is stop the deportation and then I will comply with the rules here. This is all perfectly legal and I have not committed a crime.”

When an angry passenger, who appears to be English, makes a second attempt to seize her phone, she tells him: “What is more important, a life, or your time? … I want him to get off the plane because he is not safe in Afghanistan. I am trying to change my country’s rules, I don’t like them. It is not right to send people to hell.”

Despite the young woman's claims that she had done nothing wrong, “Swedish authorities see the matter differently”, reports Deutsche Welle. Police told the newspaper that “passengers who refuse to obey a pilot's orders while on board a plane can face fines or up to six months in jail”.

The authorities also said the Afghan man was in custody and would be deported, though they did not say when.

The incident “shines a spotlight on domestic opposition to Sweden’s tough asylum regime”, says The Guardian. The government has continued to push for expulsions of asylum seekers as the country heads towards an election in September “that is being fought largely on immigration and asylum”, reports the paper, with the far-right party Sweden Democrats showing strongly in the polls.

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