Swedish activist stops flight from deporting Afghan man to ‘hell’

Elin Ersson’s refusal to sit down on a plane deporting a 52-year-old to Kabul could see her fined and jailed.

Screengrab from Elin Ersson''s video
Ersson's video garnered more than two million views on Facebook with many praising her for her courage [Screengrab/Facebook/Elin Ersson]

A Swedish activist has prevented the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker after she refused to sit down on a plane that was due to deport him from the country.

Facing sympathy and hostility from passengers, Elin Ersson began live-streaming her 15-minute protest as she boarded the plane and demanded the pilot exercise his right to refuse to take off while the 52-year-old deportee was on-board.

“I am doing what I can to save a person’s life,” said Ersson as she struggled to keep her composure.

“As long as a person is standing, the pilot cannot take off. I’m not going to sit down until the person is off the plane.”

In recent years, thousands of Afghan asylum seekers have been told they will be returned to the active warzone despite outcry that the country is not safe.

Shouts of “sit down, we want to go” could be heard in the recording and a person believed to be a flight attendant made an attempt to snatch Ersson’s phone.

“What is more important, a life, or your time?” she told the person.

“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.”

After a tense standoff, passengers broke into applause when the asylum seeker and Ersson were taken off the plane by ground staff.

The video went viral on social media with many praising Ersson for her courage.

“This is what a human rights defender looks like,” said Amnesty International’s Stefan Simanowitz.

“If ever you think one person can’t make a difference, then watch this!” said Caroline Lucas, an MP with the UK’s Green Party.

Meanwhile, Joey Ayoub wrote that Ersson could be fined and jailed for delaying the Afghan man’s deportation, and posted a story published by the German broadcaster Deutsche Welle (DW).

According to DW, passengers who refuse to obey a pilot’s orders while on board face fines or up to six months in jail.

The incident has highlighted Sweden‘s strict policy on asylum seekers after the extraordinary events of 2015 when 163,000 people applied for asylum in the Scandinavian country.

A 2017 study by Gothenburg University found that 52 percent favoured taking in fewer refugees into the country with 24 percent opposed.

Support for the anti-immigration Sweden Democrats has surged in advance of September’s election to the point where it could be hard for the government or opposition to form a working majority without their support.

Source: Al Jazeera