Swedish student stops man's deportation with protest on plane
A student stopped the deportation of a man to Afghanistan by boarding his flight and refusing to sit down until he was let off the plane.
Elin Ersson, 21, took direct action and bought a ticket when she learned the flight from Sweden would carry someone being deported.
Ersson, a student at the University of Gothenburg, streamed her one-person protest via Facebook where it amassed thousands of likes and shares and has been viewed more than two million times.
In the video, she refuses to hand over her phone, to stop filming or to take her seat on the flight to Turkey, despite repeated requests, calmly explaining she will follow the rules if the man is removed.
Eventually, the Afghan and his escorts disembark, as does Ersson.
In her video, where she commentated on proceedings in English, she said: “I’m right now at an airport, at an aeroplane, and there’s a person getting deported to Afghanistan.
“What I’m saying is that I’m not going to sit down until this person is off the plane because he will most likely get killed if he is on this plane and the pilot has the right to say he’s not allowed on the plane.
“As long as he’s not on the plane then I will comply.”
Ersson had been at Gothenburg Airport to stop a different deportation, albeit in the same manner, of a young man whose picture she showed in her video. Once she realised he was not on the plane but the older man was, he became her focus. The flight was the first stage of his deportation via Turkey.
She repeatedly told viewers – and increasingly irate plane passengers – she was doing what was necessary to “save a man’s life”.
Amnesty International is currently calling on governments to stop forced returns to Afghanistan citing continued violence in the country.
According to UN figures, 1,692 people were killed in the first six months of 2018 more than at any comparable period of time since records began being compiled a decade ago. A further 3,430 people were also injured.
More than 10,000 people have been killed or injured each year in Afghanistan since 2014.
In Elin’s video an angry passenger with a British accent tells her she is upsetting children on the flight and snatches her phone, but it is handed back to her by a member of cabin crew and she again defends her position.
Despite getting upset, she continues her stance and finds solidarity with some passengers supporting her cause against deportation including a Turkish man and a football team.
Eventually, the man at the centre of the incident, who is not shown on the video, is removed from the plane.
Security was called to escort Ersson off once she was satisfied the man had disembarked.
In an interview with The Guardian, she said of the response to the video: “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.”
She says that her ultimate goal is “to end deportations to Afghanistan”.
Kerry Moscoguiri, Amnesty UK’s campaigns director, said: “Elin Ersson’s intervention on the flight was nothing short of heroic and it shows the power each of us has to stand up to injustice when we see it, but it shouldn’t come down to individual acts of bravery.
“Governments need to put a stop to these involuntary returns when the risks are so high.
“It’s appalling that the UK and Sweden are still forcing people who have fled in search of safety back to Afghanistan, when it’s clearly so dangerous there. 2018 has been the bloodiest year on record for Afghans according to the UN, and it’s immoral to ignore that reality.”
In the UK, 105 people were forced to return to Afghanistan in 2017 according to UK Government stats, said Amnesty.