Student blocks deportation of Afghan asylum-seeker by refusing to sit down and let the plane take off

Elin Ersson is a 21 year old Swedish social work student who boarded a plane at Gothenburg airport yesterday and refused to sit down until an Afghan asylum-seeker who was to be deported that day was offloaded and allowed to remain in Sweden.

Ersson livestreamed her protest, which was planned when she and other asylum activists learned that the man was due to be deported. Ersson tangled with stewards who insisted that she stop streaming and sit down, and passengers who wanted the flight to take off -- as well as passengers who supported her protest.

Eventually, the Afghan man was spared deportation and removed from the plane, to applause from the other passengers. The crew declined to use force to remove Ersson.

The Swedish government is performatively demonstrating its toughness by deporting asylum-seekers in the runup to an election. A Swedish police spokesman said that they would deport the man at a later date.

Facing both sympathy and hostility from passengers, the footage shows Ersson struggling to keep her composure. “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.”

Repeatedly told by a steward to stop filming, Ersson says: “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.”

When an angry passenger, who appears to be English, tries 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.”

Swedish student's plane protest stops man's deportation 'to hell' [David Crouch/The Guardian]