Elin Ersson’s protest of an Afghani man’s deportation from Sweden to Afghanistan has gone viral. On July 23, Ersson began a Facebook live stream as she boarded a flight from Gothenburg in Sweden, bound for Istanbul, Turkey.
Ersson, an asylum activist, bought a ticket for the flight when a group she is affiliated with learned that a 52-year-old man was due to be deported back to Afghanistan. Ersson refuses to take her seat until the man was removed from the flight, ensuring that the plane could not take off. During her protest, Ersson is met with both encouragement and opposition from the passengers. Airport security staff make it clear in the video that they will not use force to remove Ersson. Eventually, Ersson wins and the man and three security personnel who were with him, deplane. On her Facebook page, Ersson says that the deportation was “interrupted.” Ersson’s protest caused the flight to be delayed for two hours.
In an interview with the Guardian, Ersson was asked about her feelings during the protest, she said, “I was so caught in the moment that I didn’t really realize that everyone was looking at me. My focus was all on stopping a deportation to Afghanistan.”
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Ersson Can Be Heard Asking a Passenger, ‘What’s More Important, a Life, or Your Time?’
One angry passenger attempted to take Ersson’s phone from her, 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.”
When an air steward asks Ersson to stop filming, she responds by saying, “I am doing what I can 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.”
Ersson tells one disgruntled passenger, “I don’t want a man’s life to be taken away just because you don’t want to miss your flight. I am not going to sit down until the person is off the plane.” A Turkish passenger and a group of soccer players can be seen joining Ersson’s protest, evoking tears from the activist. The soccer players had just appeared in the Gothia Cup, a youth soccer tournament.
Ersson is conscious of privacy concerns and avoids filming other passenger’s faces as much as possible.
2. Ersson Could Face 6 Months in Prison
The Guardian reports that Swedavia, the company that runs the airport in Gothenburg, confirmed that the Afghani man was removed from the plane.
Deutsche Welle reports that under Swedish law, those who do not comply with a pilot’s instructions on board a plane can face fines and up to six months in prison. Ersson told the Guardian that she thought the man who was being deported was a younger Afghani man, but he had not been put on the flight.
According to Facebook, Ersson is a student at Gothenburg University. At the time of writing, the video has been viewed more than two million times.
3. Ersson Is Being Hailed as a Hero on Twitter
Ersson’s actions have seen her hailed as a hero by many on Twitter. Here are some of the most poignant messages of support:
4. Swedish Officials Are Saying the Afghani Man Will Be Deported at a Later Date
Deutsche Welle reports that the Afghani man remains in custody and will be deported some time in the future.
The Swedish Migration Board’s decision that Afghanistan is safe for migrants who have their applications denied has drawn huge criticism. Deportations were suspended for a period in January 2018 when a Taliban attack killed more than 100 people in a hotel. SBS reports that in 2016, European countries have deported more than 10,000 Afghani migrants. In July 2018, Germany’s interior minister reveled in the fact that he had deported 69 Aghani asylum seekers on his 69th birthday.
5. The Group that Ersson Is a Member of Is Planning an Event in Sweden to Capitalize on the Buzz Created by Ersson’s Protest
According to the Facebook page for Sittstrejken I Göteborg, the group that Ersson is a member of, is planning an event in Gothenburg to capitalize on the success of Ersson’s protest. A Facebook post on a planned July 27 protest reads in part, “Together we are stronger, let’s continue the fight together!” The concluding line says that the group will “stand together” and that “The expulsions to Afghanistan must be stopped now! Come on!” Speaking the Guardian about Sweden’s immigration policies, Ersson said, “People [in Afghanistan] are not sure of any safety. They don’t know if they’re going to live another day. As I’ve been working and meeting people from Afghanistan and heard their stories, I’ve been more and more in the belief that no one should be deported to Afghanistan because it’s not a safe place. The way that we are treating refugees right now, I think that we can do better, especially in a rich country like Sweden.”